My parents have been spending their retirement driving all over the continental U.S., while my father travel-blogs. He was excited when the venerable roadside attraction The Thing received a dramatic upgrade. After passing a bunch of billboards like this, from El Paso to Tucson:
…you get here…
…where – since 1965 – you’d see this:
Is it a mystery of the desert or the skeleton of an alien?
Well, in a dramatic upgrade, the museum now offers this take on “prehistory”:
Apparently, macrame mummies don’t pull in traffic like they used to.
When my father excitedly texted me this photo, it hit me.
The market research industry has become aliens vs. dinosaurs.
Like the world of The Thing, there are two groups of aliens.
The most recent group of aliens are the tech-driven firms and their staff who typically understand technology more than they understand research. They recognize that their innovations create new ways to learn about consumers, but they often reinvent the wheel when it comes to research-on-research best practices.
The original aliens are the majority of researchers who ended up in the profession from somewhere else. As I wrote in these pages about the MRII survey Researchers and the Love of Learning, only a quarter of researchers surveyed had planned a research career while in college, while the rest of us found our way into the industry and simply stayed.
The dinosaurs are those in the industry who still write questionnaires and conduct research like it’s 1984: 0 to 10 scales that were great for the telephone but that are now known to be less accurate than five-point fully labeled numberless scales; direct questions when panel companies can provide behavioral data; and half-hour surveys of grid after grid when the science clearly shows the degradation of response quality from satisficing.
If you’re an alien to this industry or have a dinosaur in your life that needs an upgrade, please look at the rich training opportunities available. ESOMAR and Insights Association often offer workshops at their conferences, Burke Institute has in-person training, Research Rockstar offers real-time virtual classrooms, and the UGA/MRII now has a new line of self-paced courses: Principles Express. These on-demand courses with interactive exercises can be completed in 9 to 12 hours and are designed with the busy researcher in mind, whether that researcher is an alien or a dinosaur.
And the next time you’re driving by Dragoon, Arizona, stop and see a quirky bit of Americana: The Thing.
Jeffrey Henning, PRC is the new executive director of the MRII, for which he is overseeing the rollout of the Principles Express line of on-demand MRX courses. The MRII has just announced three new courses: Qualitative Market Research, Emerging Methods and the Future of Market Research, and Analytics 1-2-3.