The future of client market research departments lies with management consultants, polymaths* and specialists. Management consultants will lead client market research (MR) departments, satisfying C-suite demands for MR that ‘gets the business’, is effective with senior management, is future-focused and is a driver of innovation and growth. Polymaths will have the conceptual thinking ability and agility to integrate and leverage the myriad sources of information (what Simon Chadwick referred to as the New Modalities and the River in his Nov 21 “The Winds of Change” blog), identifying insights that give a competitive advantage. Specialists will bring deep analytic capabilities and knowledge that unlocks fresh insights for polymaths to leverage.
Why do we say this? And what does it mean for staffing of the future, in client market research departments and in research companies?
Three major forces are driving change in future staffing needs, and market research is rapidly approaching what Andy Grove of Intel called a “strategic inflection point” in his famous book Only the Paranoid Survive.
Senior management in client companies is demanding that MR moves from being an operation that largely does validation and tactical research to one that is a strategic partner in driving innovation and growth.
A river of information beyond traditional market research data is rapidly coming on stream (e.g. social media, web analytics, and location-based data); information synthesis and knowledge management will become critical to the survival of MR departments and will offer a huge opportunity for innovative research companies.
There has never before been a time of so much innovation in MR tools. There’s neuroscience, biometrics, eye-tracking, social media analytics, online ethnographies, virtual shopping, “digividuals”, and more.
Force 1 drives the need for people with management consulting skills, and for polymaths (think Leonardo da Vinci and Theodore Roosevelt). Force 2 drives the need for polymaths and analytical specialists. Force 3 drives the need for a wide range of specialists. The vast majority of specialists will work for research companies.
Take heed of the winds of change, and take these three steps now. 1) Evaluate your structure and staff against the new needs, 2) Design a training program that addresses key capability gaps, and 3) Restructure as needed, and hire to fill gaps that cannot be filled with training.
*A polymath (Greek: ?????????, polymath?s, “having learned much” is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. [Source: Wikipedia]