Multi-step reasoning, Competitive Intelligence, Google Search and critical thinking

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Multi-Step Reasoning, Competitive Intelligence, Google Search And Critical Thinking

I recently watched an excellent analysis of changes to Google SEO by Exposure Ninja. They discussed AI advancements in Google’s recent multi-step reasoning. They explained that Google would increasingly handle complex search queries. Breaking them down and conducting multiple searches. Then, the results are synthesised into a cohesive answer. While this might seem beneficial, we immediately had alarm bells ringing. Why, well surely, does this approach to Google search undermine our critical thinking and analytical skills? All are essential for competitive intelligence professionals and general users alike.

Multi-step reasoning

Exposure Ninja explained that AI technologies in search are seeing substantial evolution, particularly evident from developments showcased at a recent Google IO developer conference. Among these advancements is a feature termed multi-step reasoning. It presents an interesting glimpse into the future of search capabilities, though it is still in its testing phase. You can watch Tim and the team talk about it here.

Google’s Multi-Step Reasoning

Multi-step reasoning breaks down a long and complex query into multiple searches. Google runs these searches and compiles the results to provide a comprehensive answer. This approach transforms the search engine into a more interactive research assistant. By doing your “Googling,” this AI-driven function retrieves information like it now, but then it explores, reasons, and presents a tailored solution for our query.

Implications for Search and Marketing

The implications of this technology for search and marketing are profound. Traditional search behaviour often follows a funnel-like journey: starting from broad, informational searches at the top, narrowing down through comparative searches in the middle, and culminating in specific, commercial searches at the bottom. With multi-step reasoning, Tim explained that Google hints at compressing this customer journey. This seamless journey, driven by AI, means we will receive comprehensive answers without navigating through multiple search results and stages and fundamentally altering how content is consumed.

Lack of Intellectual Engagement

Everyone,  especially competitive intelligence professionals, relies on our critical thinking ability. To question assumptions and explore various avenues of inquiry. Sifting through results and connecting disparate pieces of information is crucial for developing deep insights. Formulating search queries helps with our thinking. When AI takes over these tasks, it diminishes our need (and worse ability) to engage with what we find. This can only lead to a decline in our nuanced understanding and creative problem-solving skills. All of these are vital in competitive intelligence and the population. We will have to take Google’s multi-step reasoning as gospel. 

Homogenisation of Insights

AI-driven search results will lead to a homogenisation of insights. Google will present information for everyone. Our unique take on information and analysis, which comes from how our thinking got to the search results, will be lost. Competitive intelligence thrives on unique perspectives and diverse approaches to problem-solving. Where will the competitive edge come from if we all receive the same Google results?

Decreased Value of Original Search and Discovery

The essence of competitive intelligence involves:

  • Digging deeper into information.
  • Identifying unique patterns.
  • Discovering “golden nuggets” of insight that are not immediately apparent.

AI’s role in pre-digesting information can stifle this discovery process. Google will present the right information for your needs. But who determines the “right information”? When AI curates and compiles information, it may filter out data that, while seemingly insignificant, could be crucial for deeper insights. Again, this reduces the opportunity to discover overlooked or unconventional information. The insight that could provide a strategic advantage.

Loss of Discovery

Part of the value of conducting thorough research is pulling information strings. The finding information by chance. The information that was not initially sought. The information from this new information leads to new insight and unexpected competitive advantages. Google’s multi-step streamlines answers. But removes the “What does that mean?”, “what if I search for this and that?” and the “Why is that coming up?”. It could lead to a more linear and less innovative approach to information gathering.

Impact on Competitive Differentiation

If Google’s AI-driven search results become standard, your competitors will receive similar information. Making it harder for you to differentiate themselves. It’s a massive assumption that your competitors use competitive intelligence and look for insights. We may find it challenging to develop unique strategies based on competitive intelligence. This could lead to market homogenisation. Where competitors implement similar tactics and strategies, reducing overall market dynamism.

Relying on Google to serve us the information

But we won’t become overly reliant on AI to curate information. No? When did you last call an industry expert to discuss a competitor? When did you last go to a business library to read an industry magazine? We rely on Google as a starting point now. We will depend on curated AI-generated thinking very soon.  This means we will potentially overlook critical insights requiring human interpretation and intuition. This dependency could weaken our ability to adapt to market changes or think outside the box. Other AI-free search engines will likely come along, giving us a choice to think for ourselves. But the vast majority of the population will be under Google’s spell. Without getting the tin foil hat out, the question is who controls Google and its algorithms.

Multi-Step Reasoning Competitive Intelligence and Critical Thinking

AI advancements like Google’s multi-step reasoning offer convenience and efficiency. They also pose significant risks to competitive intelligence and the population. The erosion of critical thinking skills can’t be a good thing. It will make us lazy, and the potential for uniformity will undermine our core competencies required for competitive advantage. We must maintain an active role in their research and analytical processes to preserve the depth and originality of our insights and ensure we remain competitive in an AI-driven landscape.

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