By definition, the word “agile” simply means to move quickly and easily. Technology and social media make our environment more dynamic than ever, so clients must be agile in order to adapt and change to the fast-paced, ever-changing customer environment. Tighter budgets and shorter timelines add to the need for agility. Market research suppliers must be able to adapt to the clients’ needs, which often means being able to provide quality insights at a lower cost and within a shorter period of time (versus more traditional research).
Is fast and cheap agile? In a way, it is. But by our definition, it’s not truly agile research. Read more
What does it take to get to the next level? Sometimes it’s doing what feels uncomfortable – taking risks.
First, let’s look at our roadmap to plateaus. Back in the 60s, two psychologists, Paul Fitts and Michael Posner, set out to uncover why we plateau. They discovered that when we acquire a skill, we go through three stages:
- The first stage of skill acquisition is called the cognitive phase. In this phase, we must concentrate intently on what we’re doing as we figure out strategies on how to accomplish the skill more efficiently and effectively.
- The second phase is the associative phase. During this phase, we make fewer mistakes. Consequently, we feel more comfortable with the skill and begin to concentrate less on what we’re doing.
- The final stage is the autonomous phase, or what we might call the plateau phase. We reach a skill level where we’re able to capably do the task without having to really think about it at all.
You’ve gone through these phases in everything you’ve done. Think about driving. There may have been challenges at first (appropriate pressure on the brake) that you had to think about as you did them to improve, then it felt more comfortable behind the wheel, and finally, today, we hardly think about our actual driving.
This also shows up in our work. We think carefully about a new project or new business, we start to get into a rhythm, and then we plateau, or the business plateaus or the brand plateaus.
Taking risk: There are variety of ways to overcome a plateau. Taking risks and stretching past our comfort zone is perhaps the most rewarding, yet least followed path. Typically people look for easier routes to beat the plateau, or they settle with status quo.
Insights can feel this way: risky. On one hand, it may be that an insight inspired you to think about the uncomfortable. Now you need to do the uncomfortable. Other times the insight is affirming the idea of the uncomfortable, giving you and your team the emotional edge, added information, and reassurance to push out and take on the challenge in order to find the growth you need.
What is your plateau? And what is the next risk you and your team need to take?
My new year’s exercise goals are holding strong. It’s been unbroken since January 2. I’m thinking more clearly. Inspired, with fresh ideas. More than ever before. Why are flashes of insight and creativity so easy to come by so far this year?
I’m starting to layer this question with a book I recently read, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, where the author (Daniel Levitin) describes the two modes of the brain:
- 1) The central executive brain – Central-decision making mode. The job of the central executive is to prevent you from being distracted when you’re engaged in a task, limiting what will enter your consciousness so that you can focus on what you’re doing uninterrupted.
- 2) The wandering brain – Responsible for our great moments of creativity and insight. This is when your brain is not engaged in a purposeful task – no screens in view – when you’re sitting on a sandy beach or relaxing by a fire, and your mind wanders fluidly from topic to topic.
If you think about your typical flow of thought throughout any given day, these two modes will make sense. Both happen, and both are critical functions of the brain. But, only one function can happen at a time.
As I’ve pointed out before, I believe, and The Organized Mind agrees, our executive brain is on overload. And it has been for some time. A growing number cry for a chance to disconnect. Many know they need time and space to think, but they can’t find time – or, worse yet, they don’t make time.
Data and insights are at the heart of any creative idea whether it’s a new product, new market, or new marketing strategy. As marketers and researchers, we need to deliver data and insight but also inspire this creativity to happen for ourselves and our teams. To do this, it requires us to switch off our executive brain on occasion. Switch off our thinking about the tasks we need to do, the meeting we have next, etc. Switching off our screens for a period of time.
Exercise is a great way to do this. It’s a primal switch. The one that forces your brain to focus, heighten alertness, and yet let your wandering mind takeover.
Get out from behind your desk and move. You will thank yourself, and others will too when you deliver that next great idea.
As a qualitative researcher, one of the most important aspects is allowing the opportunity for voices to be heard. We say that at the beginning of every group and oftentimes wonder if this is why our moderators have such success in getting respondents to openly share—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Eliciting such honest conversation might be achievable in multiple ways, but for us, making respondents believe that their voice matters has been very successful.
People want their voices, their lives, their opinions and experiences to matter. It is frustrating for people to go through this world thinking that they have little to no say in the daily happenings of the world around them. Instilling a belief in respondents that they matter and that the purpose of the group revolves around their words being heard is critical to success.
In order to effectively do this, moderators have to be great listeners and even better at putting respondents at ease. Establishing rapport from the moment the respondents enter the room is key. Making the respondents feel at ease and comfortable in the environment is also very important. And being clear that the purpose of the group is to make sure their opinion will be heard is paramount to the success of the group. Some moderators want to be the center of attention, instead of allowing the stories in the room to take center stage. In those instances, respondents are often repelled and turned off by the experience, they sit quietly, answer with short, one-word responses and countdown the minutes until their time is up. When moderators make the respondents feel like the important ones in the room, the richness of the content is undeniable.
Respondents have to know and feel that they matter. That their voices are being heard. That their opinions count. When done correctly, it’s no surprise when the respondents hug the moderator.
Business expects more from research these days. Gone are the days of delivering data and expecting the business team to harvest the data to find the insight. Those who welcome this change will succeed, because they will enable the business to succeed. As the researcher, we must be responsible to the business by building high-quality research programs and delivering real, actionable insights. The business team wants knowledge and a belief in their direction forward. They want wisdom that enables them to get budget approval on a new product or new campaign. They want big ideas that help them set a vision. They want those big ideas to take flight, and they need our help to do it. Not through cross-tabs and PowerPoint decks, but by bringing the business closer to people (the consumer) so they can envision the future.
Here are five ways to ensure your team’s insights take off:
1. Be useful, don’t just be clever
2. Be willing to allow others to contribute and earn credit for their ideas.
3. Make connections between the brand and the broader cultural trends and deeper human truths (i.e. instincts and motivations). To do this, you must get out of the office to interact with the people the brand seeks to engage.
4. Make space for your mind to create/connect good ideas and be creative. HINT: you can’t do this in front of your computer or while on your blackberry. Set aside time each day to sit back, workout, or to do whatever activity allows your mind to explore freely.
5. Key to success is understanding the basics of human communication (or better yet, interaction). Know how to listen and be heard. Make time to improve your understanding of what triggers and levers are useful for illuminating the insight and action needed.
When it comes to marketing technology decisions, IT is no longer king. Traditionally, all information technology was within the IT Department’s control. The IT Department served as the gatekeeper, innovations tracker, and regulator of all hardware and software used within a company. This responsibility is no longer feasible for many IT departments in a world where every inquiry, customer contact, and sale generates data that can be mined by companies to increase revenues.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal column written by George F. Colony, Chairman and CEO of Forrester Research, CIOs face the “Age of the Consumer”, the share of IT budgets spent on internally-focused initiatives is rapidly decreasing. Funds are shifting to technology that can attract, win, and build customer loyalty – responsibilities owned by the marketing department.
Marketing executives recently interviewed for a study sponsored by REPASS® | Research . Strategic Consulting and gyro, believe they know more about marketing technology than their IT colleagues. Read more