Don’t forget your People:  Why Investing in Human Insight Matters In an AI world

Don’t forget your People: Why Investing in Human Insight Matters In an AI world

The allure of artificial intelligence (AI) is undeniable. It changes everything. However, as Catriona Ferris, Consumer Insights Director from Unilever argued at the Global Innovation Forum yesterday, while AI is critical, investing solely in technology while neglecting investment in people is a huge mistake. (One that I see many organisations making!)

To drive innovation and growth, companies need to invest in humans as much as artificial intelligence.

While AI is revolutionary for identifying patterns, and certainly able to come up with novel solutions by users trained in Prep, Prompting, Process and Proficiency (an investment in people!), Catriona noted that the same historical data behind AI is available to everyone. She pointed out that you can gain even deeper and more unique insights by adding proprietary data. This often comes from qualitative, ethnographic research – observing people in real-world environments to uncover unmet needs. This, again, requires investing in people.

Moreover, the combination of human creativity and AI analytics is more powerful than AI alone. Catriona noted that, in this respect, 1 + 1 = 3. Technology can enhance human creativity and analysis. But the human touch is essential for imagination, making counterintuitive connections, and posing the right questions in the first place.

Furthermore, it takes human insight to truly understand pain points and develop solutions that address them meaningfully. AI helps massively, but having people who can empathize, dig deeper and find or refine innovations that resonate at a human level takes results to the next level.

Is this just theory? No. Catriona has the results to back it up. She talked about consumer testing new product concepts generated by AI vs. ones generated AI + people. “You will show that AI plus people is a stronger partnership than Al alone.”

In conclusion, Catriona makes a compelling case for not neglecting investment in human intelligence alongside artificial intelligence. In a world enamored by the promises of AI and wowed but the results on AI, her insights are an important reminder that innovation is still a human endeavor.

(P.S. We’ve been lucky to work with Catriona and the Unilever team on this. They’re the real deal!)

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