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Generative artificial intelligence became a focus for many businesses last year. Accenture CEO Julie Sweet believes that leaders must make their own version of “deep learning”—a phrase more often applied to how AI processes data—a priority in 2024.

You’re constantly in dialogue with other CEOs about AI. What are those conversations centered on?

There’s been a real shift from AI being something theoretical and down the line to “I urgently need to understand it.” When we were at Davos last year, our research showed less than 10% of companies thought of themselves as reinventors. Today, that dialogue has completely shifted, as generative AI [GenAI], in a very tangible way, started opening the eyes of CEOs that AI is critically important.

How are you thinking about generative AI?

We anchor not into GenAI itself—because it’s just a technology—but what it will enable. We have a lot of clients who have 1,000 [ways to use AI], they’ve gotten started, and they’re not well educated. So CEOs are saying to me, “How do I move from use cases to actually hitting that new performance frontier?” The most important way to unlock the potential of AI is deep learning by humans. Everyone right now is talking about the deep learning coming from AI. The biggest gap is the understanding of the C-suites of “What is this technology? How do I ask the right questions? And how do I really use it in the enterprise?” We’re still in a land where everyone’s super excited about the tech and not connecting to the value. Deep learning by humans is the key to achieving the potential, and that means leadership training. At Davos this year, we’re not doing a bunch of one-on-ones. We’ve completely thrown that playbook out. We are holding workshops for C-suite leaders. The second piece is: How do you move from use case to value? That’s all about using that deep learning to have a modular approach that says, I know I’m going to reinvent everything, but I need to know where’s the most value now?

Do you see a new type of leader emerging in this AI age?

Yes, because it’s also one of the most exciting things that’s happened. And GenAI is truly understandable. You can touch it, you can feel it. And that means when I say deep learning of yourselves and your leaders is what’s going to unlock [potential], they’re all in. We’re actually launching a new education business because of it. Because they [leaders] see the potential and want to be first. So it’s that rapid shift, embracing a new technology trend and being super excited about it. And that’s different.

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