LRW (Lieberman Research Worldwide) has a long history of innovation and ranks in the top ten most innovative market research firms in the recently released GRIT rankings. I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Sackman (CEO) and Jeff Reynolds (President) to better understand the “secret sauce” that drives LRW toward new frontiers at an accelerated pace. Dave Sackman might argue that the company has not “transformed” but rather is the product of a continual focus on delivering on one of its core values – being a company that answers the question “So what?” for its clients. Let’s explore the mantra of what keeps LRW vibrant, growing, and relevant.
Ditch the R&D department. Dave and Jeff firmly believe that transformative ideas cannot be manufactured in an R&D department, packaged and then sold as a cookie cutter product. They believe great ideas arise as a result of a culture that inspires the creativity and freedom to create new concepts and consulting services that will help clients more effectively address their business issues and lead to their greater business success. Many minds focused on the passionate exploration of new ideas will produce a better result than the traditional efforts of an R&D department – without the overhead cost.
Innovate pragmatically. LRW has developed an effective “gating” process for maximizing the potential success of new products and services. The process begins with identifying new concepts germinating as the result of ongoing client work or addressing a particularly difficult client problem. These concepts are nurtured through collaboration and modest funding as required. Concepts that begin to demonstrate commercial success are then put to a broader test – more clients, more investment. Staff may be given dedicated time for further concept development. Continued commercial success results in a full-scale product or service launch. While the process does not guarantee success, it has resulted in a number of highly successful, profitable services such as LRW’s Pragmatic Brain Science®, Virtual Reality and its social media analytics offering.
Fail fast but move forward. This concept is followed by other CEOs we have spoken with as well. LRW drained their “LRW Shark Tank”—their first innovation process that mimicked the TV show– when results were less than favorable. This failure was a symbolic moment, demonstrating that the senior most executives were willing to take risks – and accept the potential for failure associated with taking risks. Pride in failure can be a powerful motivator as long as decisions are made quickly and movement to the next possible success story is swift.
Give your talent a chance to fly. It is seemingly impossible to screen new talent for the ‘innovation gene”. However, Dave and Jeff do believe can hire the best and the brightest, encourage them to be creative and support their instincts. Talent will see opportunity as a result and will spread the word among others looking for similar environments. This is the antidote to putting bright young people into boring positions from which they will eventually drift away.
Aim for something bigger than market research – perhaps a trip to the White House. Jeff and Dave shared that several weeks ago they traveled to the White House to demonstrate the potential impact of virtual reality for solving societal problems. It is well-known that LRW is one of the leaders in the virtual reality space. What is probably less well-known is the depth of the science behind what they do. Imagine the use of virtual reality to address social issues such as racial bias in law enforcement, the modification of behavior to address health issues and the like. What began with roots in market research has resulted in a technology and approach that can be truly instrumental in addressing some of society’s ills. It answers the calling for a higher purpose that so many seek as part of their career journey. Watching Dave Sackman’s TedX talk on how virtual reality can impact the world is well worth the time.
Transformation at LRW hasn’t been the result of a single event. It isn’t even a formal process espoused by leadership. Rather, it is ingrained in the culture, history and philosophy of the firm. Without doubt, continuous transformation will continue to be core to the firm’s future success.
Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW) is a full-service, custom market research provider known for its ability to turn insight into impact for its clients. LRW employs a unique “so what?®” research-based consulting model, leveraging its industry-leading Marketing Science team and Pragmatic Brain Science Institute® to help clients improve their financial performance. LRW works on a range of business issues, including market segmentation, brand strategy, advertising and communications, customer experience and new product development. LRW utilizes survey research and data from a wide variety of sources, such as social media data, customer data, and other forms of Big Data in their engagements.