Meltwater Founder & CEO and author Jorn Lyseggen was joined on a panel by professors from Oxford University Saïd Business School at the official book launch for Outside Insight. They discussed the concept behind Outside Insight, the impact this new software category will have on leaders and markets in the future and the implications we need to take heed of as we dive further into a new digital reality.
The Outside Insight book officially launched in London on 12th October, in partnership with Oxford University Said Business School. An engaging panel moderated by Dean Peter Tufano, featuring author Jorn Lyseggen and Professors Andrew Stephen, L’Oreal Professor of Marketing; and Marc Ventresca, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, discussed the impact Outside Insight will have both on firm leaders and on the wider market.
Outside Insight is a new software category that leverages AI to offer decision-makers access to insights from external data – allowing for an unbiased comparison against the competition and the ability to see opportunities and threats in real time. This will allow for more informed, forward-looking decisions that no longer rely on internal data based on activities that happened in the past.
How the nature of competition will change in our new digital reality
Launching the panel with thinking around the impact this new software category will have on business leaders, Marc predicts that access to Outside Insight will make us think differently about information and what it means: “The dream is to move from looking backward as you run forward to instead being able to look forward in real time.”
What will happen, however, when everyone has access to this information? Jorn argues that even so, not every firm will be able to act on the insights they have. “Companies have different starting points and capabilities, and they have different theses about where the world is going. They can choose to win using different strategies.”
In this way, the nature of competition will start to change as well. When access to information is no longer the barrier, it will be about guessing how your competitor will prioritize that information and what they will act on. “One thing is to make a decision,” Jorn argues. “Another is to execute it.”
Andrew adds there will still remain a level of uncertainty because you don’t know what the other player will choose to focus on.
How markets will work differently with access to Outside Insight
A core benefit of OI is that it allows us to put Porter’s 5 Forces in motion, in real time. According to Marc, this offers us real-time information about a set of possible value chains – not just existing value chains. “It lets us understand markets as real-time information processing systems and lets firms imagine different kinds of markets they want to participate in.”
With technology that can evaluate and predict the results of all possible decisions before us, we will be able to connect the dots and imagine a string of decisions rather than a single decision in isolation. “One decision at one point in time is only so valuable,” Jorn argues. “It’s a stream of decisions that needs to be considered.”
According to Marc, one key to implementing this successfully across a market is “to get outside your own firm and think about weak tie networks in a wider world – industries that will become important to you tomorrow.”
By looking at your wider market in real time, you’re able to move away from the practice of making a few monumental decisions based on your own data, toward a series of “smaller decisions as you go along – constantly adjusting direction based on real time information you get,” Jorn said.
This technology will then free up the time and the mental and emotional capacity of leaders making those decisions to allow for deeper thinking – it will be, in essence, augmented intelligence.
Jorn was under-ambitious for the insights he shared with us. Outside Insight is a promise that he and his team will find ways to connect data that currently are either unstructured or so disconnected in time or place we wouldn’t notice them otherwise.
Who can benefit most from Outside Insight in the near term?
The panel argued that it may be the IBMs and Salesforces of the world – those big companies who are already skilled at mining internal, backward-looking data – that will find it most difficult to implement OI in a meaningful way. “When a firm is very successful it’s hard for them to imagine doing something very difficult and shift to a more predictive, speculative, risk-filled analysis,” Marc said.
Rather, Andrew states, “it’s those companies who are perhaps structured in a way that leaves them at an arm’s distance from their customers that will find it most useful – that will turn to social listening and other forms of data to circumvent this.”
Jorn also believes anyone in the investment space will find this information paramount. “All the information that’s buried in unstructured data – there is the untapped opportunity for people to harvest that insight and make better investment decisions.” He goes on to reference EQT, an investment firm that uses AI named Motherbrain to help them evaluate early stage companies.
Who will win by using Outside Insight? According to Marc, it’s those who “figure out ways to accumulate breadcrumbs in creative ways, formulize them, conventionalize them, then turn them into numbers.”
Cautionary implications of a new software category
Marc cautioned that as we move away from comparative statics, thanks to this new technology, we will be able to process more information in more complex ways. But it might make us more reliant on them and as a result forget how to be critical about the information we receive.
He goes on to suggest that with full and complete information, we may be less likely to experiment or venture and take risks. He urges us to remember Stuart Kauffman and the idea of the “adjacent possible” – that “biological systems are able to morph into more complex systems by making incremental, relatively less energy consuming changes in their make up.” In a theory proposed by Steven Johnson, this principle can be applied to “uncovering hidden patterns in data” and how “new insights can be generated in previously unexplored areas.”
What’s important to note, however, is that even with this new technology, the decisions will not be made for us. Rather, AI will distill all the information out there so leaders can make decisions based on more informed data points.
Andrew warns that we still need to maintain the ability to adopt a contrarian perspective – to challenge and criticize the data we receive in an informed way with an understanding of how it was populated. “We need to shift how leaders think in terms of being creative and exploring outside the bounds of normalcy. You still need to ask the right questions of the software.”
Ultimately this software and access to data will fundamentally change the way companies are governed and run. It will change the way firms across a market view their competitive landscape and free up the capacity of leaders to think deeper and make more informed, ultimately better, decisions.