Will Artificial Intelligence Open a Space for Even Greater Humanity in the Insights Industry?

Rob Seebold

I was at the EphMRA (European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association) conference in Warsaw, 25-27 June 2019, and what really struck me was the focus on AI – mainly the positive potential it offers, but also the significant FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) it evokes due to the changes it heralds.

But, I am sure you are thinking, this is not news.

I guess what is increasingly evident is that AI has taken great leaps forward in recent years and we are already surrounded by it in our daily lives (“Alexa where’s my Siri?”).

The potential applications for the insights community are significant, from predictive targeting of respondents (why screen by asking questions when AI can parse the entire panel and find the best fitting respondents?), to replacing the need for human moderation via, for example, advanced chatbot surveys, or via Alexa-style survey interactions. Plus of course, the wealth of applications for pattern recognition in large data sets, facial coding, sentiment analysis and so on.

So where does this leave humans? – and indeed insights professionals?

My hope is that AI will be the spark that brings greater humanity to insights and business more widely.

Clients and insights agencies will need to work in closer collaboration to agree analysis strategies on how to deploy AI and to synthesise and make sense of the ‘rivers’ of data flowing into companies, to drive better business outcomes.

We need to become better storytellers, rediscovering and elevating one the most basic and oldest pillars of the human story. Storytelling is millennia old (the Lascaux Caves, in the Pyrenees Mountains in France, contain stories told as cave paintings dating back 17000 years), and we all remember stories we first heard as small children (one of the first I remember is ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak).

Waving not drowning, inspiring not telling

The art of storytelling will become even more critical – to communicate insights from the information unlocked by AI, and to drive action.

I believe that AI will empower us and give us space to focus on uniquely human skillsets, such as lateral and creative thinking, empathy, emotion and communicating with passion. This was something that applied futurist Tom Cheesewright suggested in the final session of the conference with the image below.

© Tom Cheesewright

Let’s face it who doesn’t want a helping hand?

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