Editor’s note: Sean Campbell is CEO of market research firm Cascade Insights, Portland, Ore.

How will artificial intelligence, automation and the democratization of information impact disciplines such as marketing research and competitive intelligence? I think the impact will be significant, but not as harsh as what will happen to some professions such as law and education.

The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, by Richard and Daniel Susskind, gives hope for staying relevant after the artificial intelligence revolution. The book covers what we might someday call the “industrialization of the professions.” As the craft of professional work is expected to be heavily augmented by artificial intelligence, automation and the democratization of information. For any professional, particularly marketing researchers, this book is a must-read.

As shown by many different examples in the book, businesses and sometimes entire industries will challenge themselves with how they might better serve their clients or customers. These challenges present new areas of inquiry that, in some cases, have never previously been considered. I believe there will always be a place for creative research approaches.

With that said, how corporate researchers go about getting answers to questions might change a great deal.

New technology is changing professions 

Marketing research has obviously been impacted by technology. How many different types of news scanning services, social media analysis platforms and self-service survey platforms exist? There is also a wide range of services that support the creation of insight communities. Many companies have taken advantage of insight communities to solicit feedback and ideas for new products directly from customers and potential customers.

In the future, we’ll be leveraging more of the platforms that analyze social sentiment, online communities, application program interfaces (APIs) and even artificial intelligence that are actively mining customer perspectives on our behalf. Will this leave room for the craft of conducting in-depth interviews, designing a survey or running a focus group? Certainly. But these activities will be in partnership with the tools, platforms and forms of artificial intelligence that can help us share the load. This partnership will take some of what was previously a craft and turn it into something that is either more standardized or systemized.

Transforming our jobs

Marketing research and competitive intelligence professionals will need to adapt. We can – and should – expect technology to continue to transform our jobs.

In the book, the authors provide a handy framework that illustrates the changes that are about to come. The framework shows how most professional service work – done by vendors or internal teams – moves over time from a craft-based approach into a standards-based approach, followed by a focus on systemization and, finally, a focus on externalization or community ownership. Wikipedia, which is created and edited by volunteers around the world, is one example of the externalization of a professional service.

The following quote from the book provides a great summary of the framework.

“In the broadest of terms, our claim is that market forces, technological advances and human ingenuity are combining to drive professional work… away from being provided as a form of craft by human experts, through various stages of development that will result, in due course, in much practical expertise being available, in a variety of ways, on an online basis. We regard this movement… as capturing and characterizing a fundamental transformation across the professions.”

I highly recommend that firm leaders as well as the leaders of corporate research teams study the framework in detail. It provides a helpful set of lenses you can take and apply to your own team. Plus, it will help you decide on where you should standardize and what you should still consider a craft.

Focus on craft

We can’t simply keep doing the same old thing day in and day out. For example, there have been several times over the last 10 years where I’ve made the decision to retire a service or activity because I simply felt it was becoming too commoditized or because something had become systemized or externalized.

For example, I decided to retire our e-book, Going Beyond Google: Gathering Internet Intelligence. In its sixth edition, this book was still going strong and I was still being asked to speak on it. However, I realized that the techniques in the book were being overtaken by many of the same things Richard and Daniel Susskind discuss: APIs, bots and artificial intelligence. The human effort involved in the techniques described in the book were about to give way to standardization, systemization and externalization.

I like to focus on the craft of market research. Being willing to recognize that a craft has become mainstream isn’t a bad thing. It shows that your instincts were right and you were there first with the right set of ideas. Remaining focused on a craft that’s become standardized or externalized though, well that’s a route to mediocrity. And as market researchers we should never, ever shoot for that.