What to do when robots are judging your bid

We spend our lives helping clients win crucial bids in many different industry sectors. But are we on the cusp of a whole new world of Bid procurement behaviour?

2021… Picture the scene

Following an 18-month plus slog of RFP process, you make it through to the short-list stage and the all-important face-to-face presentation day arrives. Often the deal maker or breaker moment. Shoes and smiles are polished, pitches are rehearsed, the fresh flowers and warm croissants arrive, and then finally the clients. Your bid team of course slightly nervous but excited. Alongside the client arrives AI – their ‘friendly’ procurement robot. Let’s call him Clive.
robot at bid meetingNormal pleasantries over, and the bid presentation begins. The human clients are fully engaged, even offering the odd encouraging nod and smile. But Clive doesn’t offer anything – just a quiet and constant monitoring. Behind the steely stare he is running real time algorithms and sensory evaluation on what he is hearing and seeing. After the grand finale, smiles and handshakes are exchanged. Clive offers his perfunctory automated thanks – he is unplugged and off they go. The weeks pass and eventually the Bid result is revealed.

No phone call, no more pleasantries – just a simple digital report divided across a series of sections and scores. It seems Clive has had more of a hand in the decision than we ever imagined possible.

So what is happening in 2018 that could change the bid process as we know it?

Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) – a collaboration between a brain and device that records sensory signals – are being developed by researchers at the University of California. They have deconstructed electrical activity in the temporal lobe so they can tell what word someone has heard – or not heard. They can even predict, from prior neural activity, what song a Zebra Finch will sing next!

So picture the reality in 2021 or at some point beyond, when AI like Clive may well know the pitfalls in your proposal, or what you’re really thinking and feeling when pitching for that large contract.

Clive, with the help of the BCI, can record unusual high peaks of stress and anxiety. Useful indicator, when all 3 bid presenters suddenly display high levels of anxiety at the very same point. Hmm that might need further interrogation…

But fear not presenters, for over at Columbia University they are researching the locus coeruleus, a nucleus deep in the brain stem that can help modulate stress anxiety and put Clive off the scent.

Micrograph showing the locus coeruleus
Micrograph showing the locus coeruleus

But hold on a minute! Openwater, another US start-up, has declared that its technology will eventually allow minds to be read. Doesn’t feel like there is a lot that Clive and his cohort are going to miss does it?

The end for face-to-face chemistry?

With a new digital native generation entering the work force ever more comfortable transacting and building more virtual-styled relationships, will face-to-face be replaced by a more commoditised process?

Elon Musk, who has a habit of achieving the heady mix of both dreaming and achieving, has outlined the need for humans to communicate far more quickly with each other, and computers, if we are not to be left behind by AI. His post (Wait but why) talks about the possibilities of being able to access and absorb knowledge instantly from the cloud or to send images from one person’s retina straight into the visual cortex of someone else; creating new sensory abilities (infrared eyesight or high frequency hearing anyone?) and ultimately melding human and artificial intelligence.

And in April 2017, Facebook announced plans to create a ‘silent speech’ interface allowing people to type 100 words a minute straight from their brain.

So in this time-saving arms race, will the ability to communicate information faster and faster between ourselves and AI interfaces make face-to-face bid presentations an old, unnecessary, time-expensive and risky process?

Will AI ultimately indemnify the bid decision?

AI can remove many ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ from the bid process. It may well have the power to eliminate unconscious bias and offer neutral evaluations based on datasets and sensory summaries.

Will the bid scenario become like driverless cars where it may become uninsurable for a human to drive because driverless cars will eventually rarely/never crash? And if they do they are guaranteed to execute the decision that minimises human collateral damage https://bit.ly/2mtmYTd. So could it become ‘too dangerous and free wheeling’ to allow an emotive set of humans (who are always having good and bad days) to make a decision on a large bid procurement exercise when you have AI machinery that can run a thousand tests against the bid?

Possibly a new type of Corporate Governance will emerge whereby IBM’s old adage of ‘no-one was ever fired for hiring IBM’ will be updated to ‘no-one was ever fired for using AI to make a bid decision’?

Summary

Despite all these (scary) possibilities, there remains a real challenge to get neuro technology from the lab to the real world….so we may be some way off yet but there is the will, and an awful lot of money being thrown at it. As we all are brutally aware, change is happening on an unprecedented scale. Your watch on your wrist is already monitoring your heart rate, fat burn, sleeping pattern….the brain is simply the next frontier.

So if (when) some of these incredible break throughs happen, how will you approach bids? If this is all food for thought, maybe there is no better time to start innovating your bid approach before Clive is knocking at your door…


JPC are a strategic communications agency who ‘Make the complex, compellingly simple.’ We specialise in Building Brands, Winning Bids, Sales Enablement and Creating Experiences. Please contact Nick Pearce for more information; nick.pearce@thinkjpc.com

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