What I Learned at the 2018 NEXT Conference

What I Learned at the 2018 NEXT Conference

Earlier this month, I attended The Insights Association annual NEXT conference, which focused on future innovations in the market research industry and explored new paths to more impactful insights.

Like most conferences, a few key trends surfaced, with one that was especially prominent.  Many presentations and conversations revolved around a recurring hot topic in the industry – artificial intelligence and automation. Unsurprisingly, the potential impact AI could have on market research was a subject of much speculation. With technology transforming the insights function, will we still need market researchers in the future or would the insights profession become a thing of the past?

The general consensus from NEXT was that while AI could certainly supplement the heavy lifting involved with data collection and reporting, human analysis remains a critical component.  One particularly insightful presentation shared an experiment where three reports were generated from the same data set: one solely using machine analysis, another with human analysis only, and a third report that combined the two. An insights professional from Danone served as judge and reviewed all three reports without knowing which approach was used for each analysis.  The winner turned out to be the blended approach of AI + human intelligence, described as accurate and efficient, with the robust verbatims, perspectives and nuggets of knowledge that AI alone failed to deliver.

The main takeaway for me?  AI has the capacity to generate a tremendous amount of data, but only data. It takes human interpretation and analysis to transform this data into actionable insights. If we combine them together, we have the potential to drive more confident decisions quicker and easier than ever before.