“… I am sooooo busy and soooooo far behind. I do NOT like that feeling!” @LoveStats (Annie Pettit – prominent blogger/tweeter on MR methods/issues)
“Commencing what feels like first real vacation in 2 years. Excited to do tremendous amounts of nothing…” @steveaugust (Steve August, Founder of online Quali software platform)
“think you ever get used to heading for the airport on a sunday night? hate it!!!!” @ericsalama (Eric Salama – CEO Kantar)
An increasing number of MR professionals Twitter. And a surprising number of them share tweets like the above, which have landed in my Tweet Deck in recent times. (I picked these to illlustrate the range – there are plenty others!). Many of us share their frustration.
I had a personal epiphany a few years back when, after my third trip to Beijing in a year, I realised I still hadn’t seen the Great Wall, and indeed had not seen much beyond the usual airport, taxi, meeting room and restaurant for dinner. I had a vision of my grandchildren gathered around me in my retirement, asking me about my travels and all I’d be able to say was that “it’s hard to get a taxi in New York when you need it”.
By its nature, MR makes it easy to stay busy with travel, emails, phone calls and meetings or to get dragged down in coping with the latest “crises” that inevitably erupt at regular intervals. Yet, despite these things taking up much of our working life, in reality we probably severely over-rate the necessity of dealing (at least urgently) with this mass of “stuff”. In most of my career, the best actions and decisions I’ve made – whether in researcher, line manager or global product roles – have been associated with having been able to take a bit of time out and work through the issues. In contrast to dealing with “stuff, it seems we completely under-rate the value of prioritising time to think widely and creatively.
Doesn’t that seem odd in an industry where we talk so much about the value of “creative insight” and the need for researchers to become more like consultants? Why is it we give ourselves so little time to stretch our brains? Many of us still seem to value quantity of work over quality and put in huge hours without really challenging the value of what we are doing.
One of the reasons David and I run this blog, is that we have come to the conclusion that research professionals at all levels end up doing an enormous amounts of work that does not generate much return either for themselves or clients (click on the “MR for Profit and Pleasure” Tab above for more on our views on this.). If you don’t believe me, try doing a time diary for yourself and a few key staff (not just a simple time-sheet, but a record of what you are doing every 15 minutes for a few days). Over the years I’ve got many MR people, in many countries, to do this and it is a rare individual, who does not find the results personally shocking,
Perhaps this in fact the next great challenge for MR – we have to tackle working styles and the way research professionals use their brains. In the last few years, as an industry, we’ve put huge amounts of effort into out-sourcing and back-office functions. Tackling researcher productivity issues is harder, but potentially much more valuable. At the end of the day any added value we can offer our clients comes from our brain-power, and too often our grey matter isn’t given an opportunity to function efficiently.
So, as New Year resolution time comes around, I suggest thinking seriously about resolving to find ways to give your brain some time to stretch and consider the bigger picture challenges. You may find, as I did, that such “down-time” is not only more fun, but often much more productive, than all those multifarious activities that currently lead us to the “Tweets of Pain”.