Over the years, I’ve often given mid-level researchers one or other version of a workshop I call “How to Advance Your Research Career – and still have time for a Social Life”. As you might guess, the title touches a nerve – it’s one that never fails to attract interest! Its genesis is a frustration that both David and I share: that far too many researchers do far too much work on things of far too little value. It’s something that we believe is not as inevitable or hard to change as we often imagine, but it’s also a topic that cannot be summarized in one blog post. Instead I want to touch on one small part of my talk: a consideration of successful senior market researchers I’ve known who’ve “made it” without 80 hour weeks or working themselves into an early grave. Yes, they are a minority in our industry, but they do exist and they have some lessons for the rest of us.
In a recent article in Research World, Chris Forbes of Research Reporter highlighted that the traditional economic success for mid-to-large sized research agencies relied on a combination of research expertise and technological infrastructure. As data is collected and assembled faster (both formally and informally) the weight is shifting more and more to the expertise part of that equation. Thus, the agency side of MR is going to be more and more dependent on research experience and “thinking ability” to create unique value for their clients
In fact, more and more the main (and some would say only) resource the agency researcher has to sell is their time. So, when it comes down to it, the quality of how that time is applied and the creativity to which it is put are ‘de facto’ the value to the client. Future economic strength will rely almost solely on how well the time ‘resource’ is both defined and managed. Read On..>
Most Market Research professionals like a bit of variety in their working lives. After all, it’s not the ideal career for people who favour predictability and routine. David and I have enjoyed such variety in bucket-loads (click on the David & Alastair tab above if you’re interested) sometimes because we had no choice (I recall living through seven major changes of company ownership!) but also because at various critical points in our careers we had the good fortune of having had bosses who were willing to take a few risks on us and invest time and effort in involving us in new areas.
Giving researchers new challenges and introducing them to new ideas, services and methods is a vital factor in developing our industry. It pays large dividends in producing researchers who are more flexible and creative in their approach, and less likely to get bored and change jobs. There are many ways this could be tackled, but here are three ideas I think are worth pursuing.
Lately, there’s been a lot of back and forth in the research blogs on the topic of ISO standards being introduced to the US. This has stoked the long-running debate on competency and certification in our industry, ostensibly to ensure that those using research are assured of a certain quality of service. It also leans to a yearning amongst researchers where we’d like our craft seen as a ‘proper’ profession taking its place with the lawyers, architects, accountants, and their ilk.
After all, no-one in their right mind would engage a professional who was not qualified under their particular society’s standards and requirements, irrespective of the fact that unqualified doctors, lawyers, and others are legally not allowed to practice anyway. Read On..>
I recently attended an evening audience with Sir Roger Moore at the opulent Art Deco Orpheum Picture Palace on Sydney’s north shore. Although he, himself, admitted to being “no Laurence Olivier”, the erstwhile Agent 007 did give some excellent advice to an aspiring 18 year old actor who asked what was needed to make it to the top of the profession.
First off, Sir Roger pointed out that you needed a lot of luck not only to get your first chance but for it to be the right sort of chance for your style. But, then he emphasised something that is true for all professions and trades, irrespective of time or place, and that was you must learn your craft. Read On..>
There seems to me to be something about market researchers that means we are forever fretting about the “big-stuff” impacting our business: big trends in market research methodology, the value of out-sourcing or the desirability of expanding into new geographies. (I have to confess to having been doing a bit of this myself lately, and if you are interested in my view on major trends here’s a link to my article with Duncan Stuart in May’s Research Magazine) .
All good things to think about of course, and successful research companies will be constantly evaluating the impact of such issues. However, this shouldn’t blind us to the fact that ours is a business involving a lot of detail, and if you take your eye off the everyday processes that impact your business you will inevitably sacrifice quality and margin.
The Gordon & McCallum experience is that most MR businesses make less money than they should and could often achieve considerably better results with a bit of focus on making “tweaks” to everyday business and research practices. In this post I’m going to suggest 5 “tweaks” to our everyday work that could improve the performance of most research firms.
Recently, several articles and papers have been published bemoaning the dearth of talent in the research industry relative to its size and diversity. They focus on two key areas – the lack of basic ‘craft’ skills and the inability to deliver clear and concise insights in the client’s language. One of the root causes has been put down to the increasing homogenisation resulting from the concentration of the industry into fewer commercially driven mega-agencies, where increasingly more of the leadership (unlike in other fields) has a background from outside the profession itself.
As MR has become more business-like in the last 25 years, many would say that the average level of talent or product quality has not changed, which is at odds with the generally improved margins and overall ROI. Read On..>