Editor’s Note: At IIeX Europe we introduced a new feature of the events: Hacking Market Research. Working with Mark Earls (author of Herd and I’ll Have What She’s Having) and John Willshire of Smithery we split the audience between clients and suppliers and engaged each group in an experiment to figure out how to fix what problems they thought exist in our industry, with an emphasis on bridging the gap between clients and suppliers. The results were one of the highlights of the event and unveiled a whole new way to add impact to the conferences by continuing to focus on delivering solutions to the industry.Today Mark and John give a view of the experience from their perspective as well as a detailed view on the problems and solutions uncovered during the event. They also detail a continuation of the process in partnership with Jon Puleston of GMI to bring the Hack process into an online environment. You can participate in that here: http://qsdc.gmisurveys.com/srv/?p=jwgwl1.We’ll be doing more with this in the future, but for now enjoy this in depth review of an important new initiative to move the industry forward.
“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” – Albert Einstein
I’d like to let you into a little secret. I don’t know much about market research. Of course, if you were at IIEX in Amsterdam and witnessed Mr Mark Earls and myself onstage, it’s hardly likely to be a secret. If Mark’s a Sherpa in the mountain range of market research, I’d still be standing in the foothills, frantically staring at the map on my phone. The great and the good of MR no doubt quickly drew this conclusion themselves. Well, the Qually ones did, that is; the Quants no doubt asked a significant number of people from a random distraction across the room before deciding… (See, I’m even trying to discombobulate by throwing in a few MR references, veiling exactly how much, or more accurately little, I do know about market research.)
Yet the shallowness of my market research education is not for the want of trying. In 2000, fresh-of-face and impenetrable-of-accent, I spent a year as a graduate executive in the media division of BJM in London. Part of this entailed riding the methodological roller-coaster of a training regime; any kind of research the company conducted, the graduates had to get hands on with. I found myself interrogating people in hall tests for acrid-tasting energy drinks in Camden, to traipsing the streets of Hounslow one wet autumn, conducting door-to-door paper surveys about washing powder, where untempered Glaswegian tones did not help my cause.
Being in the media division, though, I spent a lot of the time doing the preparation for JICREG surveys; cutting out regional and local newspaper mastheads with scissors, sticking them onto paper, and photocopying them. The most important part of the exercise, as I was instructed, was the randomization. So as not to introduce bias in the placement order of the titles, each of the six mastheads on each prompt sheet was rotated into all the different possible positions, and an equal number of each variation was made up to distribute to the field force. Fast forward 14 years and I wonder if, in a way Mr. Miyagi would be proud of, this simple principle has had a significant impact on the design of Artefact Cards which Mark and I used to run the Hacking Market Research experiment at IIEX. For those of you who weren’t there, a brief recap; at the start of the client/supplier streams, we asked everyone to take an Artefact Card and write on it the thing they thought was ‘broken’ about Market Research.
We grouped them as client things and supplier things, including sub-groupings of interest, then displayed them on the wall. For the rest of IIEX, we talked about the territories with all delegates, and together we made quick ‘three card hacks’ – take three cards from anywhere across the wall, and make quick solutions for them. You can read what some of them are over here, on a tumblr we set up on the day – http://iiex2014.tumblr.com/. The full details of what we found that day are below as well.
Building From Here
In hindsight, what’s emerged from the Hacking Market Research experiment at IIEX? Firstly, the experimental nature of the exercise itself is important. It was something we hadn’t done before, and the participants hadn’t done before; it was research of a method, as well as of a topic. Everybody we talked to there was willing to get hands on, to embrace experimentation. This was ably demonstrated by Jon Puleston from GMI, who came up to us on the day, and volunteered to use a simple platform they had to pull the cards into an online survey format we’d love you to take part in here –
Basically, both participation of the audience, and client engagement before/during/after were really high. Given both of these issues surfaced strongly in the ‘what’s broken in MR’ material we collected, that’s an interesting thing to take forward; instead of selling a finished methodology, should you invite clients and participants in to explore new ones together?
Secondly, of course, there’s the randomization factor, taught as a principle to me all those years ago in BJM; eliminate potential bias in the answers by rotating the elements. The principle remains in the Hacking Market Research experiment, yet the methodology is different. It’s of the same school as the ‘cut-up technique’ used by the Dadaists, David Bowie, and of course William S Burroughs (“when you cut into the present, the future leaks out”). And whilst it’s something that the community clearly knows in principle, it is perhaps too embedded in existent methodologies to be truly useful in the current age. What is a principle in market research, and what is a method? Perhaps the two have become too entwined in a lot of cases. Think about the GMI survey above; what in here is principle, and what is method? And how might we create a better version that tells us more?
Which brings us to our last point; it is much, much easier to innovate when you’re looking at fixing something wrong than it is starting from scratch. And to do that, you’ve got to make things and put them in front of people, and work through the issues that become apparent. When you’re looking at the GMI survey, it’s a pop up two of the broken things next to each other. But don’t choose either/or, do something different. Combine the two you see, frame a problem, and solve it, quickly. Make a version. Show it to someone else.Start solving the broken things. Because whilst I may not know much about market research, you do. And there’s nobody better placed to fix it. If I can help you in any way though, feel free to reach out! John V Willshire http://smithery.co @willsh
Here are the results of the IIeX Hacking MR exercise. Take the online version for more solutions and join us at IIeX North America as we build on this with the audience there as well!