Expert Consumer Research from Covance Food Solutions

Embracing Change In MR – A Year End Perspective



By Edward Appleton

2014 was for me a year of change – whilst staying client side in Market Research, I changed job, changed the town I live in, the industry I work in, changed my route to work, the time I spend at work, changed my work colleagues. Changed a lot, in fact.

For me, the process was full of surprises – some good, some less so.

Looking back, and with my Market Research lens on, it made me very aware of how myopic we become with our methodological fixations, our anxieties and enthusiasms about New MR, DIY, commoditization of group discussions to name a few.

Technology is changing the world we live in so radically, and in ways that are so difficult to anticipate, that it’s easy to run after the next big thing, only to arrive out of breath and disappointed to discover a mirage, or somebody setting a new agenda with something else.

So rather than talking about how shopper research/predictive analytics/holistic analyses/storytelling ability are going to be THE NEXT BIG THING sometime soon, here are a few of the thoughts that stayed with me in my year of change.

1. Prepare daily for change by reaching out to new people, new thoughts, new things

The best way to prepare for change is to assume that what you are currently doing may not last as long as you think, and to reach out constantly to embrace the new. Whatever that new may be – a skill, a language, new people, new behaviours and sure, a new MR methodology (structural equation modelling maybe ;)….Embrace things that aren’t necessarily natural to you. Play out of your comfort zone – before change forces your hand.

Why? It helps make change less bumpy – you’re constantly preparing for it in a way. You simply don’t know what tomorrow’s environment might look like, and the most unexpected people turn out to be the most helpful and meaningful to you.

Increasing your reach – hopefully Mssrs. B. Sharp and A. Ehrenberg wouldn’t disagree – is also likely to be the best way of finding people who truly appreciate you.

2. Network differently: share, stay in touch, be personal. 

Managing change is often seen in terms of skills refreshment – I agree with that, but think it’s actually only half the story. We need to foster broader networks in different ways that goes beyond the purely transactional.

Effectively networking means ditching the concept of the Sales Funnel and thinking about people as people, not business contacts, and for the longer term. If it’s time to send good wishes – a birthday, Christmas, good luck etc – writing something personal, in your own handwriting is likely to resonate more than an email or a corporate card with signatures you don’t recognise.

3. Help Others.

Change is a constant and often painful process. Learning new things means we make more mistakes, are less efficient, encounter more moments where we are not expert.

Humbling stuff.

For me, one of the take-outs of this was a heightened empathy to people struggling, and asking myself what I could do to help. Researchers have the reputation of being “nice” people – do we actually do enough to help people who could use our expertise in some form? Students looking for an entry point into MR? Start-ups that don’t even know how small-scale ethnographies or shoppalongs could help?

It’s something I personally aim to put near the top of my 2015 Resolution lists – under the heading “Give Something Back”.

So that’s it. 2014 was an interesting year, and one that I couldn’t possibly have planned or anticipated. It’s been ultimately invigorating – and has sensitised me to the need of taking a practical, hopefully optimistic rather than irritated approach to the cliche that change is a constant.

Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.

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