I read an interesting post yesterday evening by Tim McCutcheon from Market Probe here on the GreenBook Blog focusing on the role of Researchers. It stressed the need for MR to move from an “engage and inform” mode to one that shapes and drives business decisions, driving business growth.
The words “needs to” occurred repeatedly – highlighting a goal, something to aim for.
It didn’t address a critical question: if we aspire to being business partners, what consultancy skills do MR folk need in future?
Here’s my take from a Client-side perspective:
1. Insights are ultimately about Strategy. We need to think strategically – meaning spelling out implications and recommendations, highlighting opportunities, going so far as to how we think we might best go after them. Can we anticipate an end-game? What might play out? How could we best position ourselves in various scenarios?
2. Insights = Actionability. Nothing new there – but the skill set challenge is cogent. We need to be Action-specialists: delivering concrete, call-to-actions. If one path is a no-go, what is an alternative path forward? What’s our hypothesis? These are the sort of questions Business Decision Makers face day-in, day-out.
3. Insights specialists need to acquire Salesmanship skills. Can we tell a story? Engage an audience? Find a way of sparking off something in our audience that is inspiring? We need to bounce off the boring image, our toolkit is exciting enough.
4. Insights needs to be bold. Whatever our personal style, and whatever the contextual and organizational ramifications, we need to embrace our mandate to challenge. Senior management is often looking for Strategic Directional input, not just tactical recommendations.
5. Insights needs to be nimble, flexible, pro-active. Problem solving is an extremely valuable skill set, but anticipating challenges, suggesting ways forward that haven’t necessarily been considered reflects an understanding of the rapidly changing contexts and landscapes that many businesses face.
6. We should learn to become as comfortable using the word “should” as we are with the word “could”. Advocacy isn’t about ambivalence – it’s about fact-based belief sets. The phrase “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” is one that Marketing folk often repeat – we should take it to heart, and use it in our own way.
7. Insights should be business-passionate. We should love our businesses and the products as much as the insights. Passion infects. It needn’t blur our vision.
I’m sure there’s more – love to hear what your views are on skill sets, what would you include in a list?
If the above sounds like a plea for Research to be something out of an Anthony Robbins book, then maybe think this: how often have you been truly excited by Market Research? Probably quite often. Have you conveyed that excitement?
Wherever we are in the MR chain, I’d say that we all need to ponder which consulting skills we need to acquire, and how to best to put a plan in place to up our skill set accordingly.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.