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Sam Steele, Research Centre Managing Director (Episode 37)

    Sam Steele, Research Centre Managing Director (Episode 37) | Sam is at the cutting edge of the cultural conversation

    Research Adjacent Sam Steele episode 37

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Sam Steele, who is currently Managing Director of the Centre for Creativity Enabled by AI at Bayes Business School, City University of London.

    At the forefront of the cultural conversation

    Sam is a recent arrival in the research adjacent world. In fact she didn’t even go to university until 2019 after a 20+ year career. That career included being one of the first female writers at the music paper the NME, many years as a Radio 1 producer working with Steve Lamacq, and 10 years running a catering business that pioneered quality festival food. Sam enrolled in a Masters when that food company was bought out and she had the time and resources to do something different. When reflecting on what connects the parts of her career Sam has followed her curiosity and grabbed opportunities.

    “I was thinking, so what’s the connection between starting out as a music journalist and ending up developing AI tools around creativity? I think for me, it’s about being where the cultural conversation is. And that’s what’s always interested me. What is the cutting edge? Where are we? And music was that in the 80s and AI is that right now.”

    Using AI to co-create, not replace

    Sam’s research centre is developing ‘human plus AI’ tools including Business Sparks and Design Sparks that can help promote human creativity by offering creative problem solving prompts. Unlike ‘AI minus human’ tools such as ChatGPT, these tools are about using AI to coach and co-create, not to replace humans.

    “It’s like the invention of the tractor. We don’t have to dig the fields anymore, we’ve got a tractor. What we need to make sure of is that we’re sitting on the tractor driving it, we’re not carrying the tractor on our backs and it’s driving us.

    And recognising the limitations of AI is important too. Sam says “There’s nothing I think that compares to the ability of the human brain to make really abstract, weird, odd comparisons.”.

    ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’

    With all her experience, Sam has learnt a lot about running businesses and, perhaps more importantly about the central role of people to any business.

    “So that lovely Peter Drucker quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It’s absolutely true. It doesn’t matter what you plan or what you think you’re going to do. If you don’t take your people with you, the people that are running your company, that are interacting with your customers, then you will never achieve anything.”

    Compared to the sometimes aggressive music business and international corporations, Sam finds the research world genteel by comparison. Despite the competitive, individualistic culture of academia she finds people are more respectful of each other’s knowledge and ideas.

    “I get a lot of support in the university. And actually I get a lot of respect because the academics I work with respect the fact that I’ve got commercial experience and they don’t.”

    Despite the research world being a relatively new venture for Sam it’s one she is enjoying.

    “A research centre has a lot of tick boxes. So there needs to be white papers, there needs to be research, there needs to be impact. But they also need to be creating products that people want to buy or license. Trying to hit all of those is an interesting puzzle. And I’m really enjoying the puzzling of it actually.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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