OPINION21 December 2018

Virtual assistants, real issue

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As voice assistants become more prolific, Twitter’s Matt Taylor asks what the purpose of market research would be if choices were defined by algorithms rather than consumers. 

Virtual assistant smart speaker _crop

Of all the buzzwords that have emanated from Silicon Valley over the past 20 years, ‘disruption’ may well be the one most often repeated in boardrooms around the world. The theory of disruption is fairly simple: it’s an aggressive form of innovation that involves rethinking a business or industry, but outside of the rules or assumptions that currently govern it. The catch being, of course, that it’s more difficult than it sounds to think outside of those assumptions, so ingrained are they in our day-to-day work.

Last week, a friend of mine uttered a sentence that suddenly made me see the assumptions that underpin the market research industry in a more fragile light, and think more about future disruption to our world: ‘Alexa, order me some batteries.’

If we think back to the Jobs To Be Done framework that I’ve written about previously, the real functional need in this example was that my friend was going camping ...