In This Issue
“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain”
— Henry Wadsworth LongfellowQuestions? Click here to send us an email with your request.
- Vol 6 Issue 2, March 2010
Noah’s Ark is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about creative and practical market research. Today’s newsletter, however, which points out four research insights based on Noah’s “flood experience,” may change your mind!
Best wishes,Julie BrownPresidentMark PalmerinoExecutive Vice President
Lessons Learned from Noah’s Ark
I must admit, when we launched this newsletter in the Fall of 2005, I never expected to write one about Noah and his ark. Not that I have anything against this legendary biblical figure. It’s just that in our experience, the subjects of “market research” and “aquatic transport of ancient beasts” don’t often overlap.
And yet as I gazed out my office window earlier this month at our fourth consecutive day of heavy rain, I found myself thinking about flooding. More specifically, I got to wondering about Noah’s “successful project” and whether there were any lessons from that experience which might carry over to the work we do.
Indeed, there were:
- Take a Long Term View
It’s not entirely clear how long it took Noah to build the ark, but there seems to be some consensus among my Googled sources that it was in the neighborhood of about 100 years. Wow, that’s a long-term project.
Luckily, Noah and his family had it on pretty good authority that the event they were planning for would occur. With that level of certainty regarding the future, it must have been much easier to ignore the naysayers and press on with the work.
Similarly, research projects with a long-term view can give companies the confidence to stay on track, as well as the information they need to avoid missing significant, future trends. The U.S. auto industry, to highlight one case, is a living, barely breathing example of what happens when you spend years paying too much attention to what customers want today (i.e. gas-guzzling SUVs) and not enough on the larger, longer term picture.
Noah had perfect information and 100 years of advance notice. For the rest of us, with less time and less certainty, it’s long term research that keeps us from getting caught in the flood.
- Be Patient
I was going crazy after just four days of rain; I’m sure 40 was exhausting. I’m also sure that with the water level rising and the land disappearing — not to mention all those noisy animals in the background — it must have been hard to stick with the plan and wait out the storm.
Large research projects also require patience if they’re going to be done well. There’s often an urgency at the outset, for example, to “get in front of people,” as if the real work doesn’t start until the questioning begins. This is a mistake.
The upfront work — putting together the research team, setting project goals, creating the survey instrument, etc. — is what shapes the future value of the information collected. There are even times where it makes sense to conduct just a few interviews, or “slow launch” a limited number of surveys, review the outcome, and further fine-tune the approach or questionnaire, all in the name of improving the quality of the final results.
The need for patience also arises in the gathering of the data itself. Sometimes, for example, there’s a particular subgroup for which it’s difficult to find an appropriate number of respondents. We’ve learned to shake the bushes and persevere, to do whatever’s possible to get in front of the people we need to hear from. A little more time and patience can bring in the needed data.
- Expect Some Bumps in the Road
Noah managed to get every animal on Earth into the ark… except for those pesky unicorns. Today, many, many years later, people are still talking (and singing) about it! As Noah no doubt learned, it’s human nature to focus on the things that went wrong.
Mistakes and omissions may occur in research projects as well. And so in addition to being as careful and thorough as possible in your work, take steps to lessen the likelihood of a single error diverting attention from the overall project.
Examples include creating a cross-functional project team to ensure buy-in and more diverse points of view; clearly communicating research objectives at both the outset of the project and along the way; and candidly pointing out limitations in your own research (before someone else does).
- Become a Champion for Your Research
Getting people involved in constructing an ark when there’s not a cloud in the sky takes influence and passion, not to mention a bit of nerve. Similarly, it may take some effort on your part to get others on board (sorry) with your research and the value of its results.
But becoming a champion for your research means doing more than simply sending a final report and saying thank you. Instead, take deliberate steps to have an impact by including the right people in the process from the very start (their presence will help spread the word); packaging the results in a way that will be useful; communicating with key players all along the way; and engaging in strategy sessions regarding how the results will be put to use.
Remember, surviving the flood is just step one. Once that’s done, you’ve got to get the animals off the ark and excited about taking action.
(See Mixology below for more specifics on championing your research.)
Here’s the Twist: I’m happy to report that the sun has once again returned to New England. But our recent days of flooding — not to mention Noah’s worst case scenario — serve as useful reminders of some important principals of quality market research. Ahoy!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
Great research doesn’t necessarily speak for itself. Keep these simple steps in mind to make sure your next project gets the attention it needs:
- Develop “elevator speeches.” You’ve got countless opportunities throughout your day to keep your colleagues updated on the progress of your work — at the water cooler, in the lunchroom, waiting for a meeting to start and yes, in the elevator.
Don’t waste these golden opportunities; use them to keep a positive buzz going by preplanning tidbits about your work: “This week we learned…” “One interesting thing we’ve found…” “Did you know that 35% of…?”
- Maintain a library of research projects. Having your work scattered here and there on miscellaneous shelves across the organization makes it difficult to find, reference and act on later. So be sure to create a centralized “warehouse” of your past projects, data and findings.
- Leverage new media. Do team members have e-mail signatures? Why not have everyone drop those same elevator speech tidbits into the end of each e-mail sent? Or post these on Twitter and Facebook?
The point is simple: You’ve done important work. You’re not finished until you’ve taken steps to spread the word.
“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.