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Top 3 Themes from the 2019 GRIT Business & Innovation Report

The only thing constant in the Insights Industry is change. The GRIT Business & Innovation Report provides valuable takeaways to help guide where that change is headed.

Editor’s Note: The latest GRIT Business & Innovation Report has aroused great interest in the Insights community, and is proving to be one of the most widely read editions since GRIT began (if you haven’t downloaded yours yet, you can get yours here). Jonathan La Greca has provided a really nice article on what he sees as the major takeaways from the report. I very much like the way he focuses on Impact. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen too many researchers get hung up on technique for technique’s sake, and don’t focus enough on what actions should be taken because of the unique insights that came out of the effort. As I’ve said in other contexts, if Insights wants a seat at the table of senior management, a focus on Impact and Action is what will get us there.


Disruption and Change – How will it affect you?

We are living in an exciting time where everything around us is changing.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry or category that isn’t being disrupted and there are many more changes on the way in the coming years.

  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation…
  • How will they change your industry, business, and career?
  • Will you be relevant 5 years from now?

These are questions that are on many of our minds, specifically in the insights industry.

Innovation & Impact – Key to survival

A deeper look at what is happening in the insights industry demonstrates the rapid changes that are taking place.

It also shows that the key to surviving in a quickly changing future is to continue to introduce innovative ideas, approaches, and partners into your organization.

But, how do you evaluate innovation? How do you sell it to your organization? How do you set up an effective pilot to determine if you should implement it further?

Impact is the key to answering these questions. 

Recent interviews with CMOs reveal that your value is based on how much impact you’re having on the organization. Any new ideas, approaches, and partners need to be evaluated by the impact they deliver.

A Guide to Innovation & Impact – The GRIT Business & Innovation Report

The 2019 GRIT Business & Innovation Report, offers a variety of insights into the current state of the marketing insights industry, and the future.

We look to this report to understand how to continue to drive innovation and maximum impact and have highlighted the three key themes we took away from this report.

1. We’re all trying to demonstrate impact in the face of constant deadlines and unrealistic expectations, while starved for time and resources.

Whether you are a client-side insights leader, a marketer, or a supplier-side agency leader, the reality is that you are likely facing constant deadlines and near impossible expectations, while also being starved for the time and resources to properly deliver against them.

In this year’s GRIT Report, several consumer insight leaders are concerned that excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations paired with resource constraints are affecting the overall quality of their insights and thus their long-term growth plans.

One GRIT Report respondent described this concern as follows, “Too much technology that promises cheaper, faster, better insights, which is not possible. The pressure to get faster and cheaper results is cutting down on thinking time and quality of our insights”.

Another respondent stated: “We are not staffed properly with enough or the right people to help lead these initiatives. The greatest challenge impacting innovation and growth is sufficient resources.”

Yes, uncovering quality insights and making smart strategic decisions can take time, resources, and sometimes even further investment, but insight leaders are actively seeking new approaches, technologies, and partners that can help them be more efficient.

Beyond addressing their time and resource constraints, the ultimate reason why insights leaders are experimenting with new partners, technologies, and methodologies are to see if these new approaches can improve their reputation within their organizations, demonstrate impact on business results, and give them a seat at the executive table.

How are you leveraging innovative new methods and partners to help relieve pressure and drive impact within your organization?

2. Innovation through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation can make us more effective and efficient, and we hope they will enable us to innovate more instead of replacing us.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation were the topics that are most top of mind for insight leaders and were considered the most disruptive trends they face.

Aside from a mix of fear and excitement on the impact that AI, ML, and automation will have on our lives and careers, there isn’t agreement on what it really means.

Mike Stevens, Founder of Insights Platforms & What Next Strategy, says “ask ten people for a definition of AI and you’ll get twelve answers”, which demonstrates that we are still trying to define AI, ML, and automation, let alone find the appropriate uses for it.

Several insights leaders are experimenting with new technologies in hopes of solving their time, budget, and resource constraints.

But again, the true value of innovative new tools lies in helping insights leaders demonstrate impact with their internal stakeholders by making better decisions that grow their brands.

In terms of overcoming the fear of AI and automation, we need to re-frame our perspective so that we look for ways to leverage innovation to help advance our businesses and our careers.

As a corporate Insights professional in a large European enterprise suggested, AI should be leveraged not to replace humans, but to allow us to spend time being more effective and efficient.

Melanie Courtright, EVP of Research Science & Data Strategy at Dynata, suggested automation and AI are not driving innovation themselves, but enabling humans to drive innovation. That is, humans are still at the forefront of driving innovation.

Finally, Mike Stevens suggests that “agencies aren’t going anywhere, they’re just changing. And software can’t do without people. Very few companies in the GRIT Top 50 Tech list are pure-play software platforms; most have teams of on-boarders, researchers, analysts, project managers, and tech support staff. Software is creating jobs in our industry, not killing them.”

So again, whether you are a client-side insights leader or a supplier, how can technology free up your time for thought that allows you to grow your brand and drive impact on your business?

3. We need to focus more on the “so what” of innovation and demonstrate how it is driving impact and ROI.

The GRIT Report demonstrated that over 80% of client-side researchers feel that their organizations are focused on future growth strategy.

To help drive that future growth strategy, 75% of organizations are exploring new methods, technologies, business models, and partners. It is clear that insight leaders are looking for innovative suppliers to help them advance their businesses and careers.

If we agree that innovative new methodologies, technologies, and partners are key to us overcoming our time and resource constraints, will add value in our organizations and careers, how do we go about implementing them?

The GRIT Report revealed that suppliers and clients communicate about innovation very differently. This powerful insight could help you improve your ability to introduce innovation whether you are a client or supplier.

Suppliers tend to focus more on the “what” and the “how”, the technologies and processes that get you to innovation. This makes sense as they are heavily invested in improving processes to help their clients save time and money and improve the quality of their insights.

Further, suppliers tended to rank factors such as the use of proven methodologies, creative reporting, and engaging survey experience, more highly than clients did. 

These are all related to the “what” and the “how”, and clearly there is an opportunity for suppliers to communicate more about the “so what”.

For example, client-side insights buyers were twice as likely to rank outcomes like ‘faster decisions’ and ‘more time for interpretation’, more important than process terms like ‘research automation’.

Clients want to understand how innovation will help advance their brands and ultimately their reputation within their organizations more than the processes that will get them there.

The best way to help clients and for clients to help their internal stakeholders is to ensure that all recommendations link clearly to a business objective, focus on growing the business, and influence action.

Interestingly, clients also have a way to go, as only 37% of respondents said that their organizations measure the ROI of their projects on a regular basis.

Even where ROI is being measured, it is always easier to measure short-term aspects of being “faster” or “cheaper”, than to measure “better” insights and the long-term business impact they are having.

So whether you are a supplier speaking with clients, or a client trying to introduce innovation to your stakeholders, how much of your message track is focused on the “what” and the “how”? How can you dial up the “so what” more and measure both the short and long-term impact you are having.

Closing Thoughts

As technology continues to advance, our industry, businesses, and jobs will transform substantially over the next several years.

It’s not unreasonable for you to be concerned about how this will affect your future and there is no question that preparedness is a key to quicker adaptation.

Whether you are a client-side researcher or agency supplier, the key is to find ways to launch innovative new approaches, technologies, and partners into your organization.  The path to get there successfully requires you to be hyper-focused on demonstrating impact and ROI.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

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