Collaboration & Agility – Essentials for Future Success?

October 25, 2016

Many have said that mankind’s progress for the past 5 millennia has been driven by three basic motivations:-

  1. Greedy people wanting more
  2. Lazy people wanting to do less
  3. Frightened people wanting to be safe

Today, competition and self-interest, …. taking the easy options when things look too hard, ….and risk-aversion are part of the business world, MR is no exception.

We see three different values necessary for future prosperity; they will change the way we operate, the desired skill sets, and how agencies and clients work together.

essentials-for-success

Agencies, conditioned to compete for everything, will instead collaborate both to win clients’ business and then to service it.

We see idleness as the blind adoption of ‘the method we used last time’…… or ‘quick and dirty’ research used to justify a decision already made. This will be replaced by agility – smart thinking and technology combining with ‘fast and focused’ research to provide competitive edge.

Benefitting from collaboration and agility involves risk-taking – clients and agencies will be in new territory and so be more open not only to sharing but also to experimenting with new, untried methods often covering emerging areas of consumer behaviour. The payoff is potentially bigger gains from deeper insights and understanding.

In determining the desired skill sets we first consider the client imperatives then match the skills to fulfilling the demands of those imperatives.

When it comes down to it, the two main reasons to undertake research are for

  • Enhancement and
  • Innovation

imperatives-values

Amongst the many skills sets available, these four stand out

  1. Integration
  2. Agility
  3. Understanding new brand relationships in a digital world and,
  4. Staying true to the fundamentals

Enhancement is improving the existing brand portfolio by launching extensions, adjusting price, increasing performance –actions to keep the brand competitive by avoiding commoditisation.

It is time-sensitive and demands ‘good’ information speedily delivered. This has driven much of the innovation in mobile and online along with the emphasis on ‘fit for purpose’ research. But you cannot determine if something is fit for purpose unless you have a strong understanding of the fundamentals.

Enhancement demands ‘agile’ skills. Agile research is not just about technology where costs and time are saved then decision making is based on the most recent state of the ‘market’.

Agile research is about being flexible in design and not necessarily following standard methodologies to address common questions. It’s the agility of thinking and framing the issues that generates the potential for a new insight or perspective.

Innovation is a multifaceted challenge, continuously undertaken in a complex and fast moving environment. Recently, in ESOMAR’s Research World, the industry as a whole was criticised for not meeting the demands of innovation. MR was not exploiting new thinking and technology to generate innovative ideas. It was only using innovation for operational efficiency.

The adoption of new and innovative ideas is frequently a daunting task for any researcher, research team, and even research organisation. But by collaborating across the research spectrum, the integration and synthesis of disparate data sources, for example, becomes less of a challenge and more attractive.

So collaboration is a new soft skill but for agencies and for clients. Buyers need to re-engineer their research agency relationships by engendering cooperation where rival agencies can work together without compromising competitive advantages.

Furthermore, if clients demand agile research they need to embrace the increased risk inherent in innovative applications of research methods. Those clients will be rewarded with the best and brightest vying for their business – the top researchers always push to work with the most interesting clients!

David McCallum, 2016

Elements of this blog first appeared in “Partnership, Marriage, Hook-up, or One Night Stand? – Client & Agency Relationships in the Digital Age” by Tomoko Nishi & David McCallum at ESOMAR APAC, Tokyo, May 2016

 

 

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It’s a Long Way to the Top – building a research career in the 21st Century

August 25, 2015

Whether you’ve been around almost as long as AMSRS itself or are just starting, we feel you’ll find something worthwhile in Teri Nolan’s and my presentation on the first afternoon of the 2015 AMSRS Conference. With me looking back 30 years and Teri looking forward the same, we’re part of the “Passion of Research” session.bon scott swanston We’ll look at….

Developments in three key areas have impacted the industry and career progression

  1. Consumer markets (from mass markets to targeted one-on-one marketing)
  2. Mass media (from single set households to ‘three screens per person’)
  3. Data depth (from surveys of hundreds or thousands to Big Data, Internet of Things and The Quantified Self)

The researcher’s life in 2020 and beyond

  1. Career expectations and changes in the workplace. Disruptions and uncertainty as opportunities
  2. Varied experiences – Jack-of-all-trades, master of one, or a master of some? Work routines and ‘off the job’ learning
  3. Specialists & Polymaths
  4. Re-engineering & re-branding
  5. More boutiques, specialty agencies, so more roles ‘at the top’ for those in research

Men & Women Watching Ads – Different Markets or Different Species?

June 22, 2012

The more I look at the patterns of response to advertising revealed by facial imaging the more I’m convinced that the old “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus” chestnut has validity. (Facial Imaging is the direct measurement of emotion via webcams – see www.nviso.ch if you want to know how it works).  In essence major contrasts in reaction are the norm in the ads we’ve studied and this seems to hold across cultures and is not confined to the obvious categories like cars or alcohol. Yes, MR studies have often noted gender differences, but I’m not referring merely to broad reaction to the ad but the fact that the level, pattern and type of emotional reaction to specific elements of the commercial can differ wildly.

Women (pink line) React To An Ad With Lots of Baby Shots. OK for a while, but get it wrong and you lose them.

Even when the overall  response of males and females is pretty similar (e.g. as measured by self-reported liking, impact etc.) the norm is that you’ll find that the build of emotion and reaction to specific scenes diverges markedly. While I’d be the first to admit we need to do a lot more systematic analysis to back up my initial assessments, I’m increasingly of the view that this has huge implications for advertising and research. Read the rest of this entry »


Professional Development – you don’t know what you don’t know!

May 2, 2012

Having recently assumed the chair of the AMSRS’s Professional Development Program, the first thing that struck me was the enormous range and diversity of subject matter one has to command these days to be a truly effective market researcher. The extent of knowledge required makes it even more important to encourage continuous learning if we are to retain the value of MR as a profession in both the commercial and social sphere.

At the risk of over-simplifying, there wasn’t that much to learn in the late 70s to early 80s. If you were capable of questionnaire design, understood stats and a bit of sampling, could analyse data, and maybe present with some coherence you could work in a research company. Read On..>


The Fine Line between Passion and Pride

September 6, 2011

I spoke recently, on separate occasions, to a couple of colleagues now at major research buyers. Interestingly, both commented on what they saw as a ‘decline in passion’ from all but their most specialised (i.e. smaller or niche) suppliers.

Both felt that, as well as the harder times in the market economies generally bringing everyone down, the organisational changes arising from consolidation in the industry may also be playing a part in this emotional change. In particular, the increased prevalence of personnel policies, necessitated by organisational complexity, was thought to be a key factor. The structures imposed by such were driving the ‘star players’ upwards (to staff roles) or outwards at many of the larger companies in favour of safe but not necessarily inspiring performers. Read the rest of this entry »


Running a Market Research Company: What I Learned Over Lunch

May 16, 2011
Risata Overlooking Steelhead Trout

Image by atl10trader via Flickr

Many years ago now, I was taken out to a long ‘relaxing’ lunch (as was the custom of those days) by a senior industry player. I was just starting out on my managerial career, and I suspect his major motivation was to fish for competitive intelligence, or perhaps to see if I was wanting to jump ship. But, as he poured the second glass, he seemed to decide I was worthy of mentoring and so started to give advice on how to manage a market research company. One bit, in particular, stuck with me. Leaning over he intoned: “look Alastair, making money out of MR is a lot simpler than most realise: all you need to do is hire the best people in the industry, pay them 20% more than they’d get anywhere else, then work them twice as hard as anybody else would.

A little while later, I was about to head off for my first overseas assignment, and at a far more genteel lunch our company chairman also offered some advice. I’d been probing him for clues on cultural factors that might impact my work and he’d been politely indulging me with helpful tips. Then he said “But you know, Alastair, that while all these things are important, there are two more important things in running a research business” . The first he said, was to know enough of finance and accountancy so your finance director could not pull the wool over your eyes (he put it more politely than that!). The second thing was to “recruit a team that is not like you, that compensates for your weaknesses, and will argue with you in an intelligent, rational way. If your team are all like you, and always agree with you, then sooner or later the company will be in trouble“.

Read the rest of this entry »


When Worlds Collide – Surviving M&A and Thriving

April 5, 2011

Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. Read On..>