Humans are the magic ingredient to AI


Matt Ridley’s excellent book ‘How Innovation Works’ sits on my shelf at home. You should read it because of what it tells you about both the power of human creativity - and the impossibility of ordering it up like a pizza.

In the current AI climate I think understanding this is important. The businesses that don’t are going to follow a lot of other sheep in wasting internal effort and probably not flourishing.

In the specific area of marketing, there is suddenly a lot of acknowledgement that jumping on late- funnel online traffic, thereby maximising your sales efficiencies, has its place but does not build brands or sustain success. Anyone can do it, the tools are available to all and you are using the same tech and platforms as your competitors.

I feel like this has always been obvious to be honest.

Yet it’s a point I made to a massive, international client just a few years ago and in some instances sadly it fell on deaf ears.

Perhaps that would be different now.

Of course the latest equivalent to ‘digital marketing will replace everything else’ is much bigger and broader. Across-the-board, AI will 'let you steal a march on your competitors'. One survey quoted 75% of CEOs suggesting that better use of AI could give them a significant advantage in the market.

I think this is broadly true but, along the way, the sheep will focus on getting up to speed with the technology, rather than the input, the motivation, the thinking behind what you request of it. How AI is used will depend upon human input: proposed innovation, problem ideation and so on.

For example, you absolutely won’t be able to fire it up and say “write me a strategy for selling more of my products”, unless you want a very obvious and bland set of instructions. At least, that’s been my experience. Duplicating historic projects, giving AI the same problem and looking to see if any interesting solution is offered back, has produced cookie-cutter responses. Nicely written, for the most part, but guaranteed to put you head-on with competitors who are using the same output.

The missing ingredient is the spark that comes from human intelligence, within your organisation, and human insight into your customers.

To achieve this, there’s no replacement for people interacting with each other. Ridley’s book suggests that innovation is a bottom-up process, not something ordained from on high. It is a “collective, collaborative phenomenon, involving trial and error, not a matter of lonely genius”.

I've always been a big believer in working in rooms and collaboration. Getting people to behave in that way, making that a part of how your business solves problems and plans for the future, will be more and more, not less and less important.

Get in touch and see how I can help you make that happen.

PS. The headline image for this story seems to me to perfectly sum up the attraction, and the risk, of AI for business. Machines are methodical, quick and process things brilliantly. Including whatever critical business analysis you've just requested. But, if we want someone to come up with a really original idea, like the S bend in a toilet, or the Lord of the Rings, or the sandwich, our money should be on people, like the guy to the right.

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These days it's not just me that can help, by the way

Thursday 1st February 2024

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