Lessons from Corporate Innovators

Pitching Generative AI to the C-Suite with Melissa Murphy

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Episode description:

In this episode of Agile Giants, we are joined by Melissa Murphy, a distinguished service professor at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Melissa, a seasoned educator and dynamic force in business education, sits down with us to share her insights on “Pitching Generative AI to the C-Suite.” 

Melissa recently presented this canvas at our Corporate Entrepreneurship Forum, focusing on the intricacies of presenting Generative AI concepts to high-level executives. Today, she generously shares this wealth of knowledge with our podcast audience.

Show links:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissamurphy16/
Email: mmurphy1@andrew.cmu.edu

[00:00:00] Sean Ammirati: In today’s episode, we are joined by someone I’ve worked with for years. I’m thrilled to welcome her in the podcast. Joining us today is Melissa Murphy, a distinguished service professor at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon. Melissa is a force for business education, incredibly dynamic teacher, educator and does a great job teaching a bunch of classes. When I met her, she was already teaching integrated marketing communications, new product development, launching new products, product and brand management, and a brand strategy class. 

[00:00:47] Sean Ammirati: She joined me as an instructor in the Corporate Startup Lab, and ultimately became the lead instructor of that class, really helping take the project course that we teach at the Corporate Startup Lab to the next level. Today though, I’m having Melissa on because she recently created a “Pitching Generative AI to the C-Suite” workshop and canvas, which she delivered for the first time at the Corporate Startup Lab’s Corporate Entrepreneurship Forum. It was incredibly well received. And so I asked her to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoyed this week’s conversation on Agile Aiants. 

[00:01:08] Sean Ammirati: All right. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for joining me today. I kind of previewed a little bit of this in the intro, but probably focus more on your educational leadership. It would be great though, to just talk a little bit about both your business leadership and also anything you want to add on, on the higher-ed side. So maybe you could start just a little bit around what you’ve done in your corporate leadership role.

[00:01:38] Melissa Murphy: Absolutely. I started my career on the agency side of the business and had an early exposure to consumer facing brands in particular. One of my clients at the time was Heinz and so I did a lot of work for Heinz. I went to work for them as well as Del Monte and a lot of other CPG players. I still, even though it’s been 10 years in academia, I still identify as a corporate person at heart.

[00:02:11] Melissa Murphy: I really enjoyed my time and I think what I got the most out of it was simply the fact I got to wear a lot of different hats. I was able to do strategic planning, innovation, marketing, communications, crisis, all sorts of things. So I really enjoyed that time and having that large cross functional role and to get to work on consumer brands.

[00:02:36] Sean Ammirati: Yeah, so I highlighted a little bit about the classes that you taught and then how, you know, you came in and help really take the Corporate Startup Lab project course to the next level. You know, one of the things I didn’t mention in the intro, but I think it’s relevant for this is I think that CPG experience gives you also a very different perspective on being consumer centric, which is obviously key in innovation as well.

[00:03:00] Sean Ammirati: And so you can see this kind of classes that you teach today, right? You teach some marketing and brand strategy stuff, and then some innovation stuff and the intersection between the two. How do you think about the portfolio of courses that you’re teaching at Carnegie Mellon? 

[00:03:15] Melissa Murphy: Like my corporate life, I really enjoy them because I get to wear a few different hats.

[00:03:19] Melissa Murphy: So I’ve got my core marketing classes and brand strategy classes that I really enjoy. But I also get to do new products courses, and do innovation work and then work with the Corporate Startup Lab talking about how we bring these entrepreneurial best practices into large companies. So again, I think I’m really attracted when I get to kind of go wide and do different topics and see how things connect versus, you know, more of a narrow focus.

[00:03:45] Sean Ammirati: Awesome. And so, so let’s jump into today’s conversation. So you created this kind of workshop slash. Uh, you know, iteration on the canvas that we’ve had for a while on pitching generative AI to the C suite. Maybe before we get into the canvas, what made you, you know, actually want to, to do this work and create this, this workshop slash canvas?

[00:04:07] Melissa Murphy: Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of presentations, as you know, on the Corporate Startup Lab. “Pitching Innovation to the C-Suite” for those that don’t know, it’s a great tool that really allows you to look at your innovation practices across the company and what questions, concerns, and things to prepare you as you pitch innovation to the C-suite.

[00:04:29] Melissa Murphy: So that foundation has been really important because I think it looks at it from a larger company view and not just from a vertical. So when we started talking about, Generative AI, one of the things that I naturally do is sort of put on my corporate hat and say, well, what would I do with this? How should I think about this? Where are the guide rails of how we should engage on this topic? So I kind of approached the workshop the same way and really said, okay, maybe I’m like a lot of large companies. I’m already doing it. And this is an extension.

[00:04:47] Melissa Murphy: Or maybe, I’m a small to medium company and I am just dipping my toe in the water for the first time. What should I be thinking about? Where should I start? What types of questions should I be asking? And, is this the right solution to the problem or the opportunity that sits in front of us? 

[00:05:19] Sean Ammirati: Yeah. I’ve gotten tons of positive feedback on it, but when you put your, you know, being the sort of customer centric innovator that you are, when you put yourself in the shoes of the people who are participating in this workshop, what, what were you hoping they would leave thinking about as it relates to the workshop or behavior that they might change. 

[00:05:42] Melissa Murphy: Yeah, no, absolutely. I hope that it gave them a chance to really think about it from all the different functional areas. But at the heart of it, I wanted to give them a place to start. So if they’re already doing it, fantastic.

[00:05:54] Melissa Murphy: But if they’re thinking about it or in some of the early stages. What should they be thinking about? What should they do first, second, and third? Who needs to have a seat at the table? And probably even a bigger question is, do we have the right people to even have a seat at that table to have this discussion? And should we look at other opportunities as well? 

[00:06:12] Sean Ammirati: Yeah. So, all right. So we’re at Carnegie Mellon. There’s this kind of famous William Gibson quote, “the world’s not evenly distributed”. The future’s already here. It’s just not evenly distributed. Like CMU is a very, unevenly distributed place. So we’ve been talking about AI for like, you know, decades, literally here.

[00:06:30] Sean Ammirati: When you think about Generative AI and the impact on business though, and this attention that it’s getting today, you know, what is your message to executive decision makers around it overall? And then we’ll talk about some of the specific elements of the different hats people wear. 

[00:06:47] Melissa Murphy: I think what’s important is they sit back and look at it like they would any other technology. And I think you’ve got to be able to put yourself in the seat to say, what goals are we trying to accomplish? What are we trying to do? And is this the right solution? And do I have the right people and partners to determine that solution?

[00:07:09] Melissa Murphy: So I think what the message I want to get out there is Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s a new technology. But like with any other type of technology product, we need to take a pretty balanced look at it. There’s both opportunity and risk. So where do we net out on that? What is our company’s risk profile? Do we have guardrails in place to deal with some of the challenges? And really sort of look at it from that high level of, you know, do we have the right building blocks to be able to do this or continue doing this?

[00:07:33] Sean Ammirati: Yeah, on that, on that question around risk, and some of these challenges, I was flipping through the slides this morning just to remind myself of it. And I thought your take, especially on Chief Legal Officer was, and sort of some of these data issues was particularly interesting. You know, how are you talking to companies about this and how would you encourage companies to think about what they might need to think about as it relates to privacy, IP, these kinds of issues?

[00:08:00] Melissa Murphy: Absolutely. I tapped into some of my old colleagues to ask that very question. So I said to her, Hey, if we were doing this together at our company, what should our concerns be?

[00:08:19] Melissa Murphy: And it was no problem for her t come up with a list to think about it in terms of legal, regulatory and ethical questions that come about. And also ownership of content can be a challenge too. And I guess the last part with that would be what to do when something is incorrect and it’s out there. How do we handle that?

[00:08:39] Melissa Murphy: How do we deal with those types of issues? So I think there’s a lot of things to consider. And I think, as always, legal can be your best friend or your worst enemy inside a large corporation. So I would encourage you to make sure that you bring them on board early and use them as an asset.

[00:08:55] Sean Ammirati: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s interesting because some of these challenges are technology challenges that you know, it’s important for the legal office to actually understand that the nuances of them like if you think about this evolution of data and what you know where the data is going, where it’s not. Like how we talked about that in June versus today is very different.

[00:09:18] Sean Ammirati: On the other hand. This hallucination risk to me, although maybe the likelihood of it happening is going down and there’s technical things like it’s hard to imagine that that won’t be part of the challenge for a while. And I think, you know, the right kind of communication back and forth is important there.

[00:09:39] Sean Ammirati: And I think these questions really are helpful so that you can kind of establish a baseline, have these conversations and things like that. If you sort of forecast out 12 months from now though, or even further, like what do you think, the role of Generative AI is going to be in decision making processes at the C-suite so like at the executive level, how is this going to impact how they think about making decisions?

[00:10:08] Melissa Murphy: Acouple of things on that. I think it’s going to challenge them to act faster and to engage on things more quickly. One of the things we talked a lot about in the workshop was the opportunity to create a cross functional team to even examine the topic and look at that. 

[00:10:27] Melissa Murphy: So how do we organize? Do we have the know how internally? What are we going to do with that? Should we be partnering and really sort of looking at it broadly? And making sure that we’ve got all the right parts and pieces to create this effort and sort of move the move the team forward and making these decisions. But like I said earlier, it’s really about weighing the risk and the opportunity.

[00:10:47] Melissa Murphy: And thinking through all of them, through all of the options, seeing what’s best for the company. 

[00:10:54] Sean Ammirati: Awesome. So I want to kind of take these last couple of questions, maybe up a level. And because I like to think to your point, this is an important change, but it’s also important to think about how it ripples through to other things.

[00:11:07] Sean Ammirati: So, with these tools in the toolbox of an organization, I think it’s also going to change how they think about other disruptive technology. So the kind of intersection of like these other emerging technologies as well. How do you think companies are going to maybe rethink disruptive technology in general, given the capabilities they’re picking up.

[00:11:33] Melissa Murphy: I think that’s an interesting question because I think whether they’ve already dealt with it or it’s something that’s coming to them in the future, definitely something they should be, should be considering. And I think one of the challenges that you have is. Where is the passion for these technologies coming from?

[00:11:49] Melissa Murphy: Is it coming from the board of directors down? Is it coming from your CTO? Is it coming from someone who’s just interested in technology and thinks maybe you could bring the business further on it. So just like we would in a marketing role, I think thinking about who are those passionate enthusiasts internally.

[00:12:06] Melissa Murphy: That we can bring together, as part of a team to sort of investigate opportunities, uh, when I wouldn’t want to happen in a corporate setting is really people going off on their own and doing things and trying things. I think there has to be some balance of having a sort of a corporate philosophy across the board on how we think about technology, how we think about new applications.

[00:12:27] Melissa Murphy: And what problems they’re going to help us solve. So I think it has to be looked at at the highest level and be considered there. And then once you believe that you’ve got a good technology, that’s going to be able to help you solve a problem for yourself internally with inside the company or externally for your customers.

[00:12:43] Melissa Murphy: Well, then I think you can build on a team from there and sort of talk about how you operationalize 

[00:12:47] Sean Ammirati: it. Yeah. So I think that’s great. So sort of generated by AI and innovation, like that’s sort of one of the, the subject matter expertise that you’re known for on campus. Let’s do generative AI and, and marketing for a minute as well.

[00:13:02] Sean Ammirati: Right. So, you know, I, I mentioned, I feel like you’ve taught me a lot about being consumer centric and I, and I really. I really appreciate that one of the things that I’m spending a lot of time thinking about today, and I would love to get your take on is like, how does voice of customer understanding your customer of all of where you have these large models that are sort of a repository of.

[00:13:28] Sean Ammirati: You know, billions of pieces of content on the internet. Like, how are we supposed to think about marketing and being customer centric with these new tools at our 

[00:13:36] Melissa Murphy: disposal? It’s funny. I’ve had others ask that question before, and we’re typically most protective of the functional areas that we know best.

[00:13:45] Melissa Murphy: So my initial reaction was to say, Oh, it’d be great elsewhere. As I’ve learned and done some homework, I think about it a little bit differently now, but my gut instinct was, yeah, let’s somebody else test that out. Um, in reality, I think what’s important to understand with it is, hey, there’s a new technology.

[00:14:02] Melissa Murphy: Great. Can it help me understand or know my customer better? Does it help me deliver a better product to them? Does it take steps out of that process or that cycle to it? Can it enhance my brand experience? Um, so I really want to be looking at it when I have my marketing head on, looking at it from that sort of how is it adding value from internally or my customers?

[00:14:26] Melissa Murphy: How is it help me understand and know them better? How does it help me differentiate my brand experience? All important parts of it. And, you know, let’s talk about sort of the elephant in the room when we talk about generative AI, who else in my category is using it? And how are they using it to their advantage?

[00:14:44] Melissa Murphy: And if I don’t use it, am I going to be behind? Um, those are all things that that cross your mind in in the spectrum of questions that we have around generative 

[00:14:54] Sean Ammirati: AI. Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think this. I think that it’s like a wonderful tool, and if you don’t use it, you should assume some of your competitors are at the same time, just blindly following what comes back feels incredibly dangerous to me.

[00:15:14] Sean Ammirati: So like, to me, like there’s a, there’s a colleague at NYU who, who likes to say like, AI is not going to take your job, but somebody who knows how to use AI is going to take your job. And I think that’s particularly true in the marketing function, like. I think marketing is going to be more important 12 months from now, but because of these tools that are going to make it easier to be customer centric are going to shorten a lot of those routine cognitive tasks that that might have taken, you know, longer periods of time before that kind of thing.

[00:15:45] Sean Ammirati: So I think I think that’s solid advice, maybe for someone who will get to kind of generally what do you do if you’re just intrigued with generative AI, but maybe for somebody who feels like, okay. I want to pick up those fundamentals to get the most out of these tools. Like what would you point people to, to just kind of understand that the fundamentals of being customer centric, kind of marketing 101.

[00:16:08] Sean Ammirati: So there’s a 

[00:16:08] Melissa Murphy: lot of great tools out there. Um, different readings, different books that have gone out in the marketplace for it. Um, I generally like to do my research in small bites. So, and I like to do it on a daily or every other day basis. So I’m always sort of doing that quick scan on LinkedIn and other places to see who’s released a post, a short article on it, um, and just try to stay on top of it that way.

[00:16:33] Melissa Murphy: I don’t think there’s a magic tool for this as of yet to make our brains sort of work faster. But I think, um, thinking about it is part of our daily habits as we think about innovation, technology and growth. I think I sort of factor it within there for that. Um, and I’ve been talking to people about it.

[00:16:51] Melissa Murphy: I mean, one of the most interesting parts of doing the workshop. Was really understanding the scope of the questions that were being asked from, like I said, everywhere from what if I don’t do it, we’re already doing it. Where else can we do it? Um, I think is important. Um, and I think to watch out for, it’s interesting.

[00:17:10] Melissa Murphy: I was, there’s a post the other day and I won’t say who posted it just because the comments weren’t all favorable, but there were a lot of people really questioning, um, generative AI and the job loss piece of it. And you and I both know, and I agree with what you said about the quote from NYU about how to think about that.

[00:17:30] Melissa Murphy: But I think companies really have to understand that it’s, that is a fear of their employees though. We can sit here and say, that’s not really the concern, but that’s not going to make anyone feel better. So I think understanding your company culture, how it feels about new technologies, how you’re educating all of your employees on new technologies, and how you’re answering those questions, I think are critically important.

[00:17:52] Melissa Murphy: Um. In absence of information, people will have their own takeaways, and you do not want that, whether it’s a customer or an employee. So we want to use everything that we have to educate and determine if this is the right tool. That’s 

[00:18:06] Sean Ammirati: exactly right. Or technology for us. That’s exactly right. Um. Yeah, no, this fear part of it is a real, a real thing, and it’s not, it’s not new, but I think the accessibility of generative AI has accelerated that, like, at least when it was statistical models and complex regression, you know, people may not have really, but like, when anybody can go to chat GPT, like the, the accessibility makes this, makes this different.

[00:18:36] Melissa Murphy: I’m sorry, it’s different than technology, though, in terms of thinking about change management. So, when we’re looking at our internal structure and how we think about this, again, do we have a culture that is adaptive, that’s used to change, accepting of change, and has sort of made it part of our corporate ethos?

[00:18:55] Melissa Murphy: Um, or have we done something the same way for 20 years? That’s going to change the way the employees think and feel about it. So I don’t think it’s a good or bad, but I think you have to be realistic about where your company is on the spectrum and how they think about it. Um, and how your employees feel about it.

[00:19:12] Sean Ammirati: Right. And that gets actually to the, the last thing. So maybe anything else like that, that when you’re thinking about this intersection of executive leadership and generative a, like what are you telling the executive leaders that come to you for advice a, around this topic today? Definitely. Um, 

[00:19:31] Melissa Murphy: first and foremost, I like to get a pulse on Phil educated.

[00:19:35] Melissa Murphy: They are on the top up as a whole. And are they being responsive to a board of directors question, or are they generally curious, or they’re already doing, um, AI and they want to know how this connects or relates to that and how should they should think about it. So I think at the, at the C suite level, it’s really this bigger, broader strategic questions.

[00:19:57] Melissa Murphy: Um, and making sure they’ve thought about it. You know, they’re always looking for new opportunities and growth. So, of course, there’s going to be interest in that, but you have to understand it first. You have to understand where your company is today, and then what that roadmap looks like to get there for it.

[00:20:13] Melissa Murphy: So, really trying to help them build the roadmap, as opposed to here’s the quick fix, the quick answer to this. To solve their problems and issues that they have. 

[00:20:23] Sean Ammirati: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think, and I think some of them, like sometimes it’s the boards, but also sometimes it’s like these guys go and they try it out and it works magically sometimes and not magically other times.

[00:20:36] Sean Ammirati: And I think this sort of more helpful lens of like, okay, well, let’s, let’s really unpack why it is great. Melissa, I really appreciate you joining us today. We’ll make sure to include thanks to kind of your social media channels so people can follow along. But what’s the best way for listeners to stay aware of what you’re doing.

[00:20:56] Melissa Murphy: Sure. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I love to have followers and love to engage there for it. But also you can reach me at CMU as well through email and other channels. I’m happy to talk, happy to share the full list of questions that we came up with for part of this workshop and the tool that we used.

[00:21:14] Melissa Murphy: I think we’ve sort of touched the surface today, but there’s, there’s a lot of, depth to the questions we looked at and the conversations that we had that I think could really back that a lot of folks that are sort of. In these early stages of trying to figure out, does this fit? Does this solve my problem?

[00:21:29] Melissa Murphy: I’m happy to share and have other conversations about, pitching generative AI to the C-Suite.

[00:21:38] Sean Ammirati: So I guess that’s, that’s a good, I was going to ask you that. So the, the best way to get a copy of the workshop slides and draft. So it is to just reach out to you. Is that right? 

[00:21:47] Melissa Murphy: Yep. Absolutely. We’re as, as all good tools are, it’s in its iterative stage right now. So, we’re still taking inputs. So Sean, if you have any questions you’d like us to add to it, please let me know, or anyone who’s listening to this, please let me know. I’m happy to add those as well. But yeah, definitely reach out to me and that’ll be the best way to do it.

[00:22:04] Sean Ammirati: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much. Really appreciate you joining today, Melissa, and hope you have a great one. 

[00:22:09] Melissa Murphy: Thanks Sean. You too.

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