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The Times, They Are A Changin’

Industry news and LinkedIn is filled with reports on companies that are trying to get ahead of the curve and understand how to harness new channels of consumer insight, including new partnerships.

It seems that the topic of transforming the research industry and charting a course for what the future may look like has now reached critical mass in the global industry online conversation, and the timing couldn’t be better. We’re at a critical juncture in the evolution of our industry, and it’s great to see so many people paying attention!

Many of the topics we have been posting about are related to this subject, but the dialogue is happening in many places. The ARF has made this a centerpiece of their 2010 agenda and Joel Rubinson has been writing about it prolifically on his blog. Robert Moran continues to take a thought leadership role via his FutureofInsight project. Also taking a leadership position on the topic is Cambiar Consulting, who have built a practice area based on transformation and will be focusing on providing strategic direction to the MR world as we navigate this next stage of our evolution.

On LinkedIn, there are several active threads devoted to this general topic. The ESOMAR Group has an ongoing series of thought provoking posts here. There is also a stimulating dialogue happening on the Next Gen Market Research Group here. The NewMR Group has covered this topic in the past, and right now they are taking a different approach and harnessing the collective wisdom of the crowd to get a handle on what is coming next for the economy and how that will impact MR; you can find that discussion here.

Industry news is filled with reports on companies that are trying to get ahead of the curve and understand how to harness new channels of consumer insight, including new partnerships between Nielsen and McKinsey and IAB Europe and Google. The list goes on and on, with new examples being available daily.

Perhaps the best example of how seriously companies are taking the challenge of reinventing MR for the 21st century is  the gauntlet thrown down by Communispace. In an article on, Manila Austin and Julie Wittes Schlack point to a number of areas where researchers should look to make trade-offs in moving to a new model of research, including abandoning purity for pragmatism in research design. They also question the relevance of concerns surrounding representative samples, particularly those who fret that the online population is not reflective of the general population. Here is an excerpt:

Authors Manila Austin and Julie Wittes Schlack argue that researchers should no longer be aiming “for the perfect, bias-free study” but instead for an approach “that pragmatically applies a range of methods to generate and test hypotheses”.

“Good enough” research is good enough, they say. “Rather than itemising the statistical significance of individual data points, we need to focus on synthesising findings that are relevant, insightful and actionable.”

The differentiating factor of the Communispace position is that they have actually stopped bemoaning the fact that the industry has changed and are embracing the new paradigm wholeheartedly. They have also abandoned the tropes that so many in our industry hold dear, and rather than trying to shoe-horn old methods into a new age, have advocated instead for an evolutionary approach that takes the most relevant aspects of MR and applies them in ways that are reflective of the new reality.  For them, it’s not about the method as much as it is developing solutions that allow brands to get better, faster, and more insightful data from consumers.

It seems to me that the lesson here is that openness and innovation will be the keys to future success. That should be one that is easy for researchers to understand; we are after all in the business of identifying trends and providing the fuel for innovations. Unfortunately, the opposite seems true for many companies in MR. Make no mistake, evolutionary forces are working as they always do to winnow out the population and create opportunities for the best and brightest; we’ll see which firms can adapt and thrive, and which will fall by the wayside.  My hope is that the number of companies that successfully embrace transformation will be large; we don’t want Communispace to be lonely, do we?

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6 responses to “The Times, They Are A Changin’

  1. Thanks so much for the useful round up and the kind words about “21st Century Market Research” (the full text of which you can download at All of the blogs and Linked In discussions that you cite have been excellent resources and stimuli in fueling this conversation, though as always, it’s our clients and the thousands of members of our communities who have done the most to inform the perspective we tried to provide in this paper. Every day the moms, doctors, IT professionals, and teens from around the world who populate our communities teach us more about how to engage with them in helping companies and brands to become more responsive and relevant, and hopefully those lessons have come through.

  2. It has been so much fun to watch and participate in all the discussions going on right now on the future of Market Research. One Linked In discussion that was particularly hot for awhile was in the Consumer Insights Interest Group “Future of Research Profession”. It was full of the insights of many of the leading research professionals of today, and really a credit to the community centered power of the internet.*2_1

    Simon Chadwick and Dave Lundahl also did a webinar a few months ago on insight and innovation “Insight in Innovation: Solving the Conundrum”. You can listen to the recording here.