Lego Your Research at TMAG

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With a big shout of thanks to HP for inviting us, and a nod to my colleague Marian Strauss, I recently had the privilege of speaking at the 55th meeting of TMAG (the Information Technology Market Analysis Group), an industry consortium of market intelligence personnel from IT hardware, software, and related services companies…which is ironic, given my avowed luddite status and inability to navigate equipment with any more choices than an on/off switch.

As one prone to hyperbole but not exaggeration, I have to start by saying what a wonderful experience it was. Having spoken at a lot of conferences where the people in attendance act as if they are being actively pursued by zombies and need to flee from all human contact (I’d classify that last sentence as hyperbole, to be clear), this was such an open, approachable group. Maybe because of their chosen industry, maybe because this is a loosely affiliated and self-governed organization, maybe because I’m just a charming fellow (okay, that’s exaggeration, I stand corrected), they could not have been more friendly, more willing to engage in honest discussions and really face their challenges head on. I’m incredibly honored to have been invited, and if you are a market researcher in the tech field I’d strongly encourage you to check them out.

Hosted by Cisco in Milpitas, California on August 25-26, 2015, the theme of the meeting was Agile Research Techniques to Turbocharge Market Intelligence. The focus of Ipsos’ presentation was on smartly accelerating innovation by letting Legos (the toys, not the company) be your muse. Let me tell you how.

Snap Together Research

Too often, in my experience, there’s been the mistaken assumption that agile research equals standardized research, because agile equates with fast. And that’s true up to a point, but what we see with companies exclusively focused on standardization is that they find that rather than being nimble they are simply rushing toward failure.

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The beauty of Legos is that you can pick up the bricks you want and just snap them together. The first premise of the presentation was that your research should work the same way.

The parts of your innovation research process should quickly snap together to create exactly what you want – within some constraints, of course. By predefining your most common innovation research needs, you can create a modularized system that provides tremendous flexibility to meet the vast majority of research needs. Does it require some up-front time investment to create the right system? You bet it does. But once you’ve built your system, it moves with all the speed of standardization and few of the constraints.

One Brick, Many Uses

As an industry, we’ve become fixated on dashboards. Just give me some key measures, maybe throw in a database comparison or two, and I have all the information I need…to make the absolutely wrong decision. Making a decision based solely on looking at key measures is like picking an occupation based solely on height. In extreme instances it might work out okay (hey, I’m 7 feet tall, maybe I should at least give basketball a try), but on the whole it’s a really bad way to choose.

Legos are multifaceted. You can use the same bricks to build a firetruck or a helicopter. The second premise of the presentation was that your research measures should also be viewed as having multiple uses – the same piece of information can enlighten in multiple ways.

One example of this phenomenon is the use of Innovation Archetypes. Rather than just looking at KPIs from an idea or concept test, Innovation Archetypes look at the response patterns across those key measures to provide additional granularity regarding your innovation. It’s easy to pick out the strongest winners and the worst losers, but much harder to identify products with the potential to be premium priced, or that are a niche opportunity. Innovation Archetypes provide this insight, as well as guidance as to the marketing support a new introduction might require to be successful.

Likewise, Text Mining of open-ended responses is another way to leverage your existing data that is already being collected. Text Mining reveals how brand perceptions drive overall brand acceptance and assesses underlying motivations better than predefined attribute lists.

In short, just like Legos, the uses of your data are really only bound by your (or Ipsos’) creativity, we need to move from focusing on just individual metrics to looking at patterns to get the full value from the data we already gather.

Human-Centered Research

For too long, research has forced respondents to conform to the ways we want to engage them, as opposed to meeting those respondents on their own terms. We write the questions, we tell them when / where / how to respond, and on what device – and then we’re surprised when people would rather play Candy Crush than complete a survey.

Legos are very human-centered, accessible to everyone at the level they choose to operate. Again, research should work the same way, the third premise of the presentation.

The future of innovation research lies in Behavioral Economics, and the need to BE smart about your innovation research. We need to make sure we are maximizing respondent engagement and measuring both conscious and subconscious decision drivers.

In terms of maximizing respondent engagement, Ipsos undertook a global R&D engagement to create a more human-centered approach to concept testing. I won’t bore you with all the details, other than to say that (a) respondents hate the way you write and display concepts, and (b) you can see highlights from our R&D findings here.

We are also seeing an increased use of Implicit Reaction Time in all the research we conduct, but particularly innovation research. Implicit Reaction Time measures the speed at which consumers react to displayed attributes, providing a proxy for intensity of feeling. By looking at both stated responses and Implicit Reaction Time, we gain a greater degree of insight into both the mind of the consumer and what we can do to make our products and services better.

Connecting What’s Now to What’s Next

As we look to connect what’s now to what’s next, Legos are a great guide for the future of research.  We have to move:

  • From research that’s fast but rigid to research that snaps together to answer your most pressing business questions
  • From the unidimensional treatment of research measures to multiple uses for the data you already collect, to maximize your strategic innovation learning
  • From research approaches designed by the researcher, for the researcher to universally accessible research, leveraging principles of Behavioral Economics and designed to better engage respondents

So Lego your research, and let Ipsos help you smartly accelerate your innovation.  Like TMAG did.