Joshua Gans is chair of technical innovation and entrepreneurship professor of strategic management at The University of Toronto Rotman School of Management.
His 2016 book, The Disruption Dilemma, sheds light on the actual nature of disruption. With marketing experiencing at least its fair share of disruption, Professor Gans examines the impact of disruption on marketing.
Paul Talbot: We’ll soon approach the second anniversary of the publication of “The Disruption Dilemma.” When you look at how the leaders of the marketing industry have approached what you refer to as "self-disrupting,” what do you see that strikes you as significant?
Joshua Gans: I don't actually think self-disruption is used that often. It involves setting up an independent business unit. This may involve a social media unit for a marketing company. However, what we know is that the best marketing campaigns are integrated across technology platforms so such self-disruption may not be a good way to proceed.
Talbot: You’ve mentioned that AI will change stock-market trading, but that the human touch will still enjoy a role. How does this perspective come into play in the marketing world, specifically with media buying and creative development?
Gans: While there are likely many aspects of marketing that will be influenced by AI -- most notably for predictions of whom to target campaigns at -- the creative element of designing those campaigns is not something that current AI is capable of. Consequently in the foreseeable future, there is a key role for humans in that creative process.
Talbot: At The University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, have there been any interesting examinations of marketing recently? If so, could you share a noteworthy finding?
Gans: Our most important finding is that how organizations handle complaints has a big impact on their reputation. Social media has allowed such complaints to be made more easily and more publicly. AI has allowed inbound enquiries to be handled more fluidly through chatbots and the like. How well these are conducted and responded to has a big impact on how often companies are referred by their own customers to others.
Talbot: What innovations will need to take place for AI to impact “the creative element” of marketing and what gaps need to be bridged for this to take place? Do you see these gaps as relatively minor or significant?
Gans: I think those gaps are very significant. AI can do only a limited range of what we might call cognitive functions. What it can't do is exercise judgment and understand what the trade-offs are in decisions. That is an essential part of any creative process.
Talbot: The issue of how organizations address complaints. It is easier for a chatbot to acknowledge a problem than to solve it. It would seem that while the consumer may appreciate the response and the empathy, what they really want is a solution. Has the Creative Destruction Lab found instances where AI either solves the problem or laterals the complaint to a person who solves the problem?
Gans: Chatbots try to resolve common problems and then recognize when a problem is not common and hand it over to a person. Pretty much all of them offer this type of "management by exception" approach.
This article originally appeared in Forbes