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Michael Akkerman, of Beach Road Consulting, on the evolution of search in the age of AI and why strategy is “a team sport”

I had a great conversation this past week with Michael Akkerman, principal at Beach Road Consulting. Michael has deep experience in the C-suite, with startups, and with SEO.

We begin by tackling the issue that’s on everyone’s mind these days: generative AI systems, which will have a big impact on search, on creatives, and the world at large. While it’s clearly too early to make any kind of accurate predictions about how things will change, Michael is cautiously optimistic about the future.

Generative AI systems will likely have a major impact on SEO, so I wanted to get Michael’s take on the issue and explore some of the thornier moral, ethical, legal, and business issues raised by AI’s advent. Do search engines have a responsibility to notify users that some or all of the content on results pages are AI-generated? Furthermore, if AI-generated content incorporates source material generated by humans, are those humans entitled to some kind of fractional reward based on their contributions to the result? And if the content that AI creates is truly great, does it really matter who or what generated it?

Switching gears, Michael and I discuss why marketers and brands often fail in terms of executing on strategy. Michael notes that unless everyone in the organization — from the C-Suite to the “trenches” — actually knows what the overarching strategy is and is fully aligned to execute it, failure will often be the result. “The biggest, most important thing is for — especially with the executive team and continuing down — everyone feels that they’re doing this together. Strategy is a team sport.” Michael observes that failure is often due to cultural factors, including internal siloization, lack of diverse viewpoints, and turf-protecting behavior on the part of stakeholders.

Our discussion then turns to the use (and abuse) of analytics. While these tools may be invaluable in terms of assessing where one was, their forecasting abilities are often overestimated, producing a dangerously false sense of security. Then we discuss the degree to which opportunity costs aren’t taken into account when business decisions are made.

Michael and I are both fans of professor Scott Galloway’s teachings and we chat about what we both take away from them. We finish our talk with a discussion of what Michael’s excited about for 2023. “While there’s uncertainty I’m very hopeful that 2023 will actually be a macroeconomic good (year) and for all of this tumultuous time, and, unfortunately, people losing their jobs, I think it will spur on more innovation than we have seen in a long time.”

 

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