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Exclusive: Why Human8 is highlighting the need to reskill for AI
Tue, 22nd Aug 2023

Human8 (formerly InSites Consulting) is a human-driven consultancy connecting brands with people and culture to drive positive change. This is through combining people, perspectives and partnerships to help brands understand the richness of people and their lives. When combined with a need for more than just data, interpretation and a point-of-view on future opportunities, Human8 brings together insights and strategy via its enhanced consultative layer and activation methods.

The company began in 1997 in Belgium under the name InSites Consulting. In 2023, InSites Consulting became Human8, the new human-driven consultancy connecting brands with people and culture to drive positive change.

Human8 unites a creative, smart and ambitious group of over 900 people across 23 locations. The company has a significant presence in the USA, EMEA and APAC. In Asia Pacific specifically, there are over 150 Human8 consultants working with a diverse portfolio of brands across nine different markets.

To learn more about Human8 and its thoughts on artificial intelligence, TechDay spoke with Annelies Verhaeghe, who is the Chief Platform Officer at Human8.

Could you explain what Human8's global employee AI prompt school is?

Human8 recently launched an employee AI prompt school supported by introducing a proprietary Square AI research assistant. The global agency is embracing the AI revolution to 'supercharge' humans as part of its tech and innovation drive, investing in discovery to accelerate success.

Human8 developed a proprietary AI research assistant using the ChatGPT algorithm to conduct a series of experiments with actual research data, putting generative AI to the test. The proprietary AI tech at hand allowed Human8 to undertake a series of A/B experiments to gain a better understanding of the potential and implications of generative AI systems for the business and the industry at large. The experiments were designed to explore well-known challenges related to AI data quality, data sampling and even data hallucination.

Human8's AI prompt school was launched to address the limitations of AI in its current iteration and the need to equip their consultants with the skills to effectively use AI, including the art of asking the right questions, fully understanding clients' needs and context, and prompting the system appropriately. The initiative will enable the global workforce to collaborate successfully with artificial intelligence while ensuring data quality and diversity.

"Being smart creators, Human8 has always been at the forefront of innovation. Thanks to our proprietary AI assistant we have created the opportunity to fully build upon the possibilities generative AI brings to the table," says Annelies Verhaeghe, Chief Platform Officer, Human8.

How does AI connect the needs to reskill future workforces and reassess data and insights?

The evolution of AI in research and consulting will fundamentally change how brands understand true humanity, and the implications for interactions with consumers and society in the future.

Any organisation that is client-centric will need to reskill for AI, with a core focus on the value that the human factor adds to any partnership with technology and clients. Human8's current efforts involve mobilising its global team of consultants across the world to reskill in order to leverage AI systems effectively to complement the value they bring to clients as consultants. 

In addition to helping consultants gain the necessary methodology and understanding of the technology, the key foundations of client partnership, problem-solving, education and engagement are now going to be more important than ever before. 

The prompt school allows Human8 employees to certify themselves in using generative AI through the proprietary developed AI research assistant by following in-house developed training programs. The training program covers both an introduction to generative AI and its main use cases within Human8's sector but also introduces them to prompt engineering best practices and watch-outs. 

Moreover, the consulting company spends a great deal of time on how to best 'sample data' to input primary research data into the AI assistant, how to avoid AI hallucinations and finally, to ensure everybody is aware of the latest legal and ethical guidelines linked to using AI systems. 

Generative AI systems today are only as smart as the data on which they are trained, typically relying on 'older' data. The industry needs to consider the role of data and what constitutes insights. Specifically, there needs to be an understanding of the limitations of relying solely on synthetic data, i.e. artificial data that is generated from original data and computer algorithms trained to reproduce the characteristics and structure of the original data.

Human8 experiments demonstrate that applying generative AI as an analysis tool to thick data collected through primary research leads to significantly more actionable research results compared to relying solely on open-source AI technologies. 

Human8 would argue that organisations need deep data to complement what is generated by AI to ensure they arrive at insights that are high quality, relevant and actionable. Relying solely on AI algorithms trained on public internet data will not provide the necessary insights for companies to gain a competitive advantage. 

By engaging the right people in more versatile ways, everyone can gather diverse deep data. When this is combined with consultants who thoroughly understand the client's business and know how to prompt AI systems effectively, fresh and actionable insights are generated. Just as humans need machines, machines also need humans.

What are the concerns surrounding AI and data confidentiality?

OpenAI systems are designed to continually collect data to learn and improve, which obviously raises concerns about data ownership and the impact on confidential research data and PI information. 

This is why Human8 chose to develop its own technology. By using the AI assistant, it does not share any data with the open ecosystems. This means Human8 can safely use it on primary data that was collected in projects or can be used as an aid in confidential projects Human8 conducts for its clients. 

For example, using an open system, you cannot ask generative AI to help come up with potential feedback people might have on a new product or communication idea. Through Human8's own technology, it can easily use generative AI as a springboard to generate hypotheses on this new idea, allowing them to start its projects already at a higher level. 

"At Human8, we truly believe that humans will be the biggest differentiator in this new AI driven world. By educating our consultants to operate our own secure & confidential AI assistant, we recognise that any tool will require human collaboration to truly make a difference," adds Verhaeghe.

Organisations need to balance the need for AI systems to continually collect data to learn and improve with prevailing concerns of data ownership and confidentiality.

What is the biggest challenge facing Human8's customers, and what is a trend driving their success?

It is indeed important to link technology opportunities with client needs. Overall Human8 feels that clients look to increase the 'return on insights' by trying to maximise the impact on their business. Generative AI comes with some exciting opportunities to serve against this need, including:

  • Allowing users to kick start projects by identifying 'the known' more quickly but also to generate hypotheses meaning that more time during the project can go to uncovering 'the new'. 
  • Users can also extend the lifetime value of data they have collected in the past. The AI assistant really allows users to have data at their fingertips. Structural textual data collected can be consulted in an agile way to answer internal questions clients are getting.
  • Overall generative AI allows for smoother collaboration between consumers that voice their opinions and people working for a brand. For example, an innovation sprint where users want to take the feedback of people as input for a workshop or, vice versa, digest workshop output into an input that goes into a community. 

In addition to the above, brands want to do what matters. These are challenging times, and hence many brands need to rethink how to stay relevant. Combining this with the hype around generative AI in general, Human8 is noticing a lot of curiosity and openness from clients to understand what generative AI might mean for insights & consultancy moving forward.