The Rise of The Integrated Researcher / IiEX Austin May 2023

The overarching theme of IiEX NA 2023 was the rapid rise of AI and its potential to disrupt the MR Industry. Quickly, the narrative for AI has changed from, “Will it disrupt?” to “To what extent will AI disrupt MR and how quickly?”.  Most folks are betting on “extensive” and “this year”.

The impact of AI is more widespread than I imagined going into the conference.  There was a lot of discussion regarding AI empowering “bad actors”, otherwise known as fraudulent respondents.  Like students using ChatGPT to submit tests, bad actors will prove much harder to catch.

Another theme was using AI as a surrogate for qual & quant.  A presentation on Generative AI versus Traditional Qualwas provided by Patty David/AARP & Maury Giles/Mind Strategies. AI was asked to mimic the responses of certain target audiences.  Later AARP conducted qual interviews with real people, but the results (which were costly and came much slower) only served to validate the insights AI had generated insanely quickly at no cost.

A presentation from Matt Hardy of Princeton University/Roundtable focused on Generating Instant Insights Using LLM as survey respondents.  Again, demo/behavioral data for the desired sample was fed into AI. When compared to the costly survey, the results were only marginally different. 

Morale of the story, why talk to people when you can talk to AI?

Steven Phillips @ Zappi stated AI will disrupt every phase of our biz (see photo). 

Again, what can we offer that AI can’t? 

A theme emerged that we should use AI to tackle all the commodity aspects of our business.  Let it take over reporting the findings.

Suppliers need to pivot from being transactional vendors to strategic partners.  Interpret, don’t just report the findings, providing depth and insight that AI can’t (at least not yet).

Easier said than done, of course.  How do we get there?

Raise your client empathy level!  Do you know their goals, the company goals, how research is regarded in their firm?  Pivoting to the role of strategic partner will require flexibility and a willingness to adapt.

The Insights Industry must provide training ASAP on how researchers can become “Prompt Engineers”.   Only a small fraction of current researchers are digital natives of AI.  Integrating the possibilities of AI will greatly enhance our employees’ productivity and thus personal brand value.  

With disruption at the door, it’s always better to be five minutes early than five minutes too late.

Michael Lancor / VP@ P&G summed it up nicely as the conference wrapped up.

”We are entering the golden age of The Integrated Researcher”.