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

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..>


Watching and Listening – An Alternative to Direct Questioning?

April 10, 2012

In the early 90’s, the ‘tagline’ of a leading Japanese agency’s brochure was ‘the key to understanding was to read between the lines of what was not said’. Two decades later, Shobha Prasad re-visited the issue focusing on the layering and subtleties of Asian languages in ‘Listening to the Sounds of Silence’ at ESOMAR’s APAC Conference.

As Asia grows more healthy, wealthy, and wired, superficially its consumers resemble their Western counterparts. Sometimes even, having leapfrogged technological lifecycles, they appear more advanced. Nevertheless, although these new trappings bring an almost ‘stateless’ vocabulary to the world’s languages, the fundamental challenges of interpreting local cultural nuance and international comparisons remain.

Direct questioning methods is felt to be (even) less effective in Asia due to language structure, cultural norms, and social convention. Asian consumers are often not so forthcoming with opinions than Western ones – although researchers in Mumbai or Manila may well disagree. The real issue, though, is the huge variety of expression, both verbally and visually. As well as vocabulary and sentence structure, different expressions also support communication. Cultures displaying emotion less conservatively usually have the mouth as the main focus; a culture that masks its feelings focuses more subtly on the eyes when determining emotion. So, visual cues can be equally important to gauge underlying sentiments. Read On..>


A Market Research Dream – Or is it a Nightmare?

April 14, 2011
Rhizome awardophilia . .

Tomorrows MR Gurus? All Question Answered, No Need For Survey or FGD! (Image by jef safi via Flickr)

Market Researchers are perpetually speculating on the future of MR; at times it is said, as a defence mechanism to save thinking about what needs doing today. In my view, this speculation falls between two extremes – expecting too much change (generally we under-rate institutional inertia in ourselves and our clients), or not anticipating enough (there will be some developments we cannot even begin to imagine).

Yet, there are stirrings in our profession of some genuinely revolutionary changes that will transform the lives of research’s next generation. These are not so much based in the oft heard predictions on new ways to access people’s thoughts (neuroscience, social media research etc.), but on the application of theory and modelling to understand and make sense of such thoughts. What then, might the future look like? Read the rest of this entry »


The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not: Our Pick of The Top MR Trends

March 8, 2011
Talk Nerdy To Me #2

Yeah Right. What's The Really Hot Talk? Image by Constantine Belias via Flickr

Last year there seemed to be such a plethora of posts (including some of ours) about the top trends in the market research industry that we thought it was time for a break.

But when Tom Anderson of Next Gen Market Research came up with the idea of a whole lot of NGMR bloggers simultaneously blogging on the top 10 issues the MR industry has to consider in coming years it seemed too much fun to miss. Here’s our views then — to be fair we’ve dropped out a few of the more totally obvious “top 10” and maybe elevated some we think are important but often overlooked — but we’ll be interested in hearing what you think (and do look up the others posts via Tom’s blog or on Twitter at hashtags: #NGMR #5Hot5Not).

Let’s start with our 5 “Not Hot”.

  1. Reining in HR. After years of imposing restrictive salary structures and job description demarcations along with their depiction of creative staff as being ‘high maintenance’, senior management finally abandons the tedious tenants of HR orthodoxy and starts treating imaginative and innovative researchers in the same way the top advertising agencies treat their best art directors and copywriters. In some cases, they even get a place at the top table again!
    Read the rest of this entry »

Myth.ology and Market Research

January 6, 2011
Ogoh-Ogoh

Tales of the Market Research Monster - Should Clients be Frightened? (Image via Wikipedia)

Our recent post on the “Myth of Market Research’s Failure” attracted a lot of readers, and recently a stern rebuttal (see comments at bottom of the post) from Philip Graves who is the author of a book called “Consumer.ology” (not to be confused with Martin Lindstrom’s similarly titled tome, “buy.ology”). Sub-titled “The Market Research Myth, The Truth about Consumers and the Psychology of Shopping” according to an unnamed reviewer on Mr Graves’ website the book “will send a shiver down the spine of the research industry”. Given that, it is not surprising he did not like our post!

Published last September, I confess I have not yet read his book, but it has got a “top 10” spot in the UK business books list on Amazon, and Philip seems to have been interviewed extensively including by magazines like “Wired” and even “Research Live”. It is then seemingly indicative of the trend towards wholesale lambasting of market research methods that we discussed in our post. The core argument as far as we can see is that surveys address the wrong side of the brain (i.e. miss emotive/intuitive response) and our qualitative methods are subject to bias and group think.

The great thing about this kind of attack is that it draws attention to the need for research to be more serious about providing better quality information to clients. The downside is that they tend to work by creating a “straw man” version of market research, in which out-dated and poor practices are treated as the norm and used as an excuse to belittle the whole industry.

Our view, stated simply, is that it is often perfectly possible to design fairly conventional research that can measure a good deal of underlying emotional or subconscious response and that where that is not possible with traditional methods there are a number of ways many of the “new MR” methods that are emerging can be applied to fill in the gaps. Clients or agencies who are dissatisfied with the quality delivered by their research deliverables should consider what can be done to improve them, rather than giving up on market research entirely. (As a disclaimer, we should mention that Gordon & McCallum provides clients with review and R&D support to improve MR systems and outputs – so we would believe that!)

Read the rest of this entry »