The views expressed by the bloggers on the GreenBook blog are not endorsed by the GreenBook or the New York AMA. The GreenBook has given us a platform to share news and views on issues related to the global MR industry, but in no way takes a formal position on any of those items unless expressly stated.
Why the disclaimer? Well, it seems that it’s important right now for those of us who are affiliated with trade organizations and/or entities that serve the needs of the industry to be clear about when we’re speaking as private “citizens” of the MR world, or as formal representatives of an organization. There seems to be some movement in certain organizations right now to ensure that if you are a representative of their group, you’d better stick to their talking points at all time and in all ways or face censure and even blackballing. That type of “loyalty oath” seems regressive, short-sighted, and just plain wrong to me; thank goodness I am aligned with organizations that know the value of a good debate and can separate the message from the messenger when they hear something they don’t like.
All of this leads me to the true topic at hand; the push for the incorporation of ISO standards for U.S. Market Research firms. The debate has been ongoing across many online forums since this was announced earlier this year, and much has been written by wiser people than me about the pros and cons of this initiative.
As an experienced business owner and executive in the MR space, I do have an opinion about this: I think it’s the wrong move at the wrong time.
Market Research is at a critical juncture in it’s development, and we need to be looking forward, pioneering new creative techniques for meeting the needs of our clients, not codifying standards on processes that may not even be relevant in 2-5 years time. We need to be charging forward, not backwards. ISO certification for MR is an expensive distraction that will ultimately be irrelevant to all but a handful of firms who specialize in specific process driven aspects of data collection. I agree wholeheartedly that quality control is a major issue for our industry, especially when it comes to sampling and data processing, but I believe our industry can develop it’s own standards to address those issues more efficiently.
Think about this folks; when was the last time a client asked if any element of a proposed research initiative was in compliance with ISO standards? It probably doesn’t happen often, at least for most of us. What we are asked is “Is this your best thinking and most creative solution to our business issue?”. Clients want to try new things and trust us as strategic advisers to help them explore new ways of gaining critical insights. When we can’t give that to them they go elsewhere for solutions; that is why clients are flocking to new providers of insight through social media, crowdsourcing, mobile engagement, neuromonitoring, MROCs, etc, and you can be darn sure those providers are not seeking ISO certification.
Embracing an industry wide standard like ISO will just move us further down the path of MR being a commodity, stifle our ability to innovate and implement creative solutions to our client’s issues, and ensure our industry continues to be marginalized. That certainly doesn’t seem like a goal our trade associations should have, but it sure seems to be the path they are headed down.