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5 Questions to Improve your Data Visualization

Posted on  23 April 14  by 


Effective communication of data is a challenge that has always plagued Market Researchers looking to make data readily available and easily consumable. In an environment where Market Insights sometimes struggles to be heard amongst other organizational voices, it is essential to have deliverables that are highly engaging, informative, and clear.

Although displaying data in a visual format is not new—researchers have seen the value of charts and graphs for decades—the world of “Big Data” has brought a spike in interest, as Researchers seek new ways to find patterns and communicate insight. The most progressive Market Insights functions are embracing data visualization as another tool in their arsenal—a way to make sure that customer knowledge gets embedded in the business.

The Data Visualization Playbook that we put together to help CEB Market Insights members improve and optimize their data presentation is one of the most popular destinations on our web site.  So, when I saw a recent HBR blog by presentation expert Nancy Duarte I knew that the topic would be right on point for our readers.  She compiled 5 questions to help you make the right visualization decision for your data situation:

  1. Context: Presentation or circulation?  Presentations need less detail, more getting to the point.
  2. What kind of chart or table is best?  To answer this, really think about which relationship you are trying to emphasize.  CEB Market Insights members, access sample chart templates to help you choose the right format for every data presentation situation.
  3. Does the visual draw eyes to my message?  Visualization tactics should draw eyes to what you need to highlight.  At CEB we refer to “the teaching point”—what is the one thing that people should take away.  This system applies well to presentation decisions: always think about the single point that folks should get from the visual, and make sure eyes are drawn to that conclusion.
  4. Do the visuals accurately represent the numbers?  Sometimes fancying up your visuals will actually muddy the facts.  Many times simplifying will improve data presentation.
  5. Is this memorable?  Engineering learning moments that can correct executives’ overconfidence and misconception.  Because we’ve blogged about this challenge before: How to Teach a Know-it-All.

Embracing Long-Term Market Changes

Posted on  15 April 14  by 


Building Future GrowthAre you looking to help your company take action on market changes?  Over the past few weeks, I’ve fielded questions about trend-spotting, forecasting, and scenario planning; it seems that Market Insights functions are coming out of this winter’s polar vortex with a renewed mission to make the most of this year, setting up their organizations for future growth.

One of the easiest ways to get business partners to agree on the importance of long-term market changes is to package together megatrends that are relevant for the business.  We’ve seen great practices from Alticor, who used a network of supplier listening posts to generate tailored market observations, and Levi Strauss, who led customized workshops to help business partners internalize insights gleaned from emerging trends.  (CEB Market Insights members, read all the details on the practices from Alticor and Levi’s, and check out trends from our sister program CEB Iconoculture)

While megatrends are a great way to start the conversation with business partners about long-term market changes, they don’t provide confidence in the timing and impact or context for choosing among potential business responses.  In other words, megatrends provide interesting thought-starters, but they don’t provide all of the information the business needs to confidently take action on market changes. 

To provide the confidence and context that business partners require to take action, progressive Insights functions take an opportunities-based approach:

Are you seeing an increased interest in your organization for forward-looking insights and recommendations?  Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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5 Email Productivity Killers to Avoid

Posted on  14 April 14  by 


Email HygieneI heard a lot of different reactions to the news that two labor unions in France (representing around 250,000 employees in technology and consulting) had reached an agreement with corporate representatives to ensure 11 hours of uninterrupted rest time – meaning no work email after you leave the office. Some people started planning their moves to France, while others bemoaned the lost productivity.

Whether you’re the type who protests the intrusion of technology and work into our home lives or the type that falls asleep to the dim glow of a smartphone (my guess is that most of us are both), there’s no denying that reading and responding to emails eats into a huge chunk of the day – an average of 28% of your time at work, or 13 hours a week.

How do you make sure that the time you spend on email is helping, rather than harming, your productivity? Blogger Alison Green recently shared some email productivity killers:

1. Reading every news article someone sends you. You don’t need to read every email that comes in. Instead, be discerning about which messages will be the best use of your time. CEB Market Insights members, once you’re finished prioritizing your inbox, you can find tactics to prioritize your research agenda here.

2. Not deleting anything. It’s a lot easier to find what you need if you don’t need to wade through messages that are no longer (or were never) relevant.

3. Not organizing things by folders. Bring some order to your inbox by organizing by topic or necessary action.  If you’re on an organizational roll (and a CEB Market Insights member), discover how Adobe organizes the content of its knowledge portal around business needs.

4. Checking email every time you have a new message. Instead of being interrupted each time a new message arrives, check your email only at set intervals. 

5. Emailing and then calling or coming by in person to make sure your message was received. If you need an immediate response, you should probably reconsider using email. It’s also important to consider the right medium when choosing how to deliver Market Insights deliverables. CEB Market Insights members, check out our Communication Toolkit  to find the right way to drive insight adoption.

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“Strangulating” Data

Posted on  8 April 14  by 


6 Keys to InfluenceWhen synthesizing multiple sources of data for your business partners, instead of “triangulating” the data, doesn’t it feel like “strangulating” instead sometimes?

One Head of Insights told us about “strangulating” data recently. I love this term because it speaks so viscerally and truthfully about a challenge Insights teams face all the time, and it’s not going away anytime soon: leveraging multiple data sources to inform smart business decisions.

In 2012, we found that synthesis of multiple sources boosted decision quality significantly, and investigated ways in which Insights teams can provide effect synthesis for business partners.

We’ve also found across the membership that increased investment in Analytics has challenged Insights teams to collaborate productively and perform data integration to unlock the potential business insight found in synthesizing these sources.

We also know this is a huge opportunity area – we’ve begun to scratch the surface with Analytics and the power its data can provide, such as targeting the right customers.

Now that Multisource Synthesis is becoming a regular activity on Insights teams, we’ve been hearing more and more questions about increasing Multisource Synthesis efficiency. Our major 2014 research is focused on investigating this very question.

If you’re interested in speaking with us about how your team is increasing Multisource Efficiency and Data Integration, feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

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Going “Viral”: How Emotions Spread Online

Posted on  8 April 14  by 


Message Going ViralSmithsonian magazine recently featured a study from Beihang University in China about which emotions spread the fastest online.  Researchers tracked emiticons as the posts that they were embedded in spread on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-esque microblogging site in China.  They found that sadness and disgust did not travel very quickly, and although joy faired faster and farther, nothing beats anger when you’re trying to get a message to go viral.

The study found that users are more likely to pass along angry posts not just to “express their anger,” but to instill a sense of outrage with the folks on the platform.  A professor at the Wharton School, Jonah Berger, observed similar findings when studying the sharing habits of New York Times articles.

Berger notes that “high-arousal” emotions drive people to take action.  Sadness makes folks withdrawn, and therefore that emotion is unlikely to go viral.  But anger activates people to share more.  On a more positive note, Berger found that the one emotion that garnered more shares than anger was awe: “the feelings of wonder and excitement that come from encountering great beauty or knowledge.”

CEB Market Insights members, check out our Social Media topic center to learn more about how organizations use social media activity in their decision-making process.  What we know: MI professionals who gain the most from the medium forgo broad monitoring initiatives for a hypothesis-based search process.

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7 Lessons from an Innovation Thought Leader

This week’s guest post comes from CEB Marketing.  Given our upcoming webinar on New Product Development, we thought we would share.

Improve InnovationIn the course of our recent work on generating radical innovation, we had a great chat with Kevin Bolen, partner at Innosight and author of several works including “Swallowing the Innovator’s Prescription”. Kevin provided seven practical tips for improving innovation.

  1. Get buy-in for radical innovation by defining growth goals and gaps to goal. Predict the likely growth rates from your existing products (including incremental innovations) and identify the gap that needs to be filled by disruptive/ radical innovation.  This should indicate the percentage of budget to invest in core vs. radical innovation – both for the whole company and for each business unit, realizing some will have more opportunity for innovation than others.
  2. Start with a small, dedicated innovation team. Start with 2 or 3 people who work on innovation full time and only add headcount when there is enough demand from the organization to justify it. Inform this group’s work with the experience of a diverse group of employees to 1.) surface assumptions to be tested and 2.) get fresh perspectives on a problem.
  3. Consider your customers’ “jobs-to-be-done”. When conducting one-on-one interviews with customers about potential new products or services, start with broad questions and surface underlying tasks they want to accomplish. Use quantitative studies later to validate these ideas.
  4. Communicate expectations when seeking employee ideas and follow up about action taken on ideas. Without any guidance, you’re likely to end up with lots of unfeasible/ irrelevant ideas that you cannot act on, leading to an overwhelmed innovation team and frustrated employees.  Instead, set guidelines on what you’re looking for. Report back on the action taken to show employees that you listened and to generate momentum for future innovation drives
  5. Make customer voice personal to help employees ideate solutions. Post a picture of the customer you interviewed (e.g. “Sally”), explain her needs, how you want to help her, and how she’s different from the employee.
  6. Establish a “train schedule of ideas”. Don’t put all your resources in one idea. Spread them out and realize some ideas will naturally move faster toward commercialization  than others since they are cheaper and easier to pilot.   Make big bets on ideas you have confidence will succeed and small bets on ideas you’re less sure of.  After six months, increase investment as confidence grows.
  7. Consider buying a start-up. If a new business model is very different from yours or if the disruption may pose a threat to your existing businesses, buying outside expertise may make sense.  If it’s a potential disruption to your core business, move the innovation team across the street to give them some autonomy.

The bottom line is most companies have more than enough ideas floating around within the organization but they lack a structured way of soliciting and evaluating ideas. With senior executive support, clear guidelines for employees, and the right inputs from customers, a company can better leverage its employees’ ideas and create a climate for ongoing disruptive innovation.

CEB Market Insights members, for more on innovation, please visit our Product Development topic center, and join us on 22 April for our webinar on Informing New Product Development.

Negotiating with People around the World, and around your Company

Posted on  1 April 14  by 


¬?w?A recent Business Insider blog post—These Diagrams Reveal How To Negotiate With People Around The World—gives us a set of communications charts from When Cultures Collide, which with great illustrative detail, describe how negotiations with different people across the world varies. Based on communications research, the diagrams aim to describe national norms and variations in how people approach and react in a negotiation.

Although the diagrams show different styles, such as “Hungarians value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other,” or “Koreans tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth,” there are some similarities between the illustrated diagrams. The biggest one that stands out to me is that each negotiation includes at least one “resistance”, “refuse”, “confusion”, or, to put it most eloquently “PROBLEMS” stage. Getting people to buy into your ideas is tough, regardless of where in the world you are.

As Market Insights professionals, we encounter these “PROBLEMS” all the time. Despite wanting new ideas, business partners are reluctant to act. Market Insights must play the role of chief insights negotiator at our companies—working to present our findings and recommendations in a way that captures of the attention of business partners and spurs action.

What can we learn from this article to apply back to our work? First, some cultural sensitivity is important when working in the global marketplace. But sensitivity, planning, and understanding are key to successful negotiation in any geography. Here are some tips to take with you as you work to negotiate for action:

Members – need some extra help with negotiation and insight activation skills? CEB Market Insights has a workshop coming up that will provide hands-on training on skills including stakeholder identification, conflict pre-emotion and management, and negotiation techniques. Register here.

Visualizing TV Series’ Popularity: Compelling Infographics

Posted on  1 April 14  by 


TV Episode PopularityAs something of a TV junkie, I was really excited about a recent post on about “Graph TV,” a site that compiles all episode ratings from the popular website IMDB.   Each show is helpfully color coded by season, and also includes a linear regression for easy chart consumption.

Not only is this site terrifically (perhaps too) easy to use—I recommend only venturing over there after business hours, as you will lose track of time quickly when you start trying to remember the names of your favorite series through the years—but it also is a great demonstration of simple, easy-to-use data visualization.  Using color-coding and simple regression, Kevin Wu has created an addictive self-service data portal.  Now all it needs is an option to graph two or more shows against each other and the social media wars on “the best television shows ever” will really heat up with an infusion of statistical arguments!

I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare research and insight communication to “Graph TV,” but I know we’re always looking for the best ways to engage our business partners, and even facilitate self-service where appropriate.  CEB Market Insights members, check out some of our most popular content on engaging data below:

The Unconscious Bias Against Female Applicants to STEM Jobs

Posted on  26 March 14  by 


STEM JobsFolks hiring for science, technology, engineering, and math jobs (STEM, for short) may think they are unbiased in candidate assessment.  But a recent study from business school professors at Columbia, Northwestern, and Chicago identified some startling unconscious biases. 

A recent article on outlines how the professors used their late-twenty to early-thirty year old students (AKA Millennials) to role-play hiring managers and job candidates.  Knowing only the appearance of “candidates,” both genders of “hiring managers” were twice as likely to select a male candidate over a female.  And when they were shown results of a math test, male and female managers still demonstrated preference to male candidates.  Indeed, women had to score about 15% higher on the test to be perceived as “equal” to the male candidates.

Professor Ernesto Reuben of the Columbia Business School noted that hiring managers didn’t take the test scores to heart because, “the information was just so counter to their ‘gut feeling’ about the candidates.”  It was that quote that resonated with me: as Market Insights professionals, we deal with correcting misperceptions and readjusting incorrect gut feelings all the time.  It made me wonder if any of our tactics to help readjust business partner assumptions could help correct the unconscious biases of hiring managers:

  1. Build interest in the topic: explicitly outline the value of the learning opportunity by introducing dissonance.  The Market Insights team at H.J. Heinz uses interest provoking tactics to create a “buzz” around new information sessions…maybe the study above will provide the buzz needed for hiring managers to take an interest in changing their biases.
  2. Design learning experiences to encourage internalization of insights: multi-sensory, realistic, and interactive events make learning opportunities more effective.  Pollstream, P&G, and Amway use gut-busting experiences to break down and re-build business partners’ “gut” understanding of customers.  Maybe business schools could re-run the experiment outlined above to make tomorrow’s business leaders feel their own unconscious biases before they encroach on actual hiring decisions.
  3. Neutralize existing knowledge: using an unfamiliar context to teach new insights means that executives can’t lean on their expertise to get through learning experiences.  Telecom NZ uses an interactive insight workshop to take business partners out of their day-to-day responsibilities, ensuring better uptake of new insights.  Any thoughts on how hiring managers could get out of their day-to-day grind to help internalize these changes?  Share any ideas that you have in the comments section below!

What Market Insights Can Learn from Chipotle: Activism

Posted on  25 March 14  by 


Blue Ribbon ActivistsOne of the more successful stories in a crowded fast-casual restaurant market is the rise of Chipotle. Serving fresh food that is primarily cooked in-house, Chipotle reported revenue of USD 3.2 billion. At the heart of this successful chain is management’s ability to enable employee performance. In a recent article in Quartz magazine, co-CEO Monty Moran, described the program in place. Termed the ‘restaurateur’ program, it enables hourly crew members to become managers of restaurants that oversee staff and train other managers. During this process they end up earning six figure salaries. Moran talks about the culture of Chipotle and their policy of hiring, rewarding and empowering top performers.

Here at CEB Market Insights, we have been discussing activism: setting expectations, implementing measurement, and empowering staff by providing tools to be proactive. We describe activism as sets of activities that incorporate competencies of influencing, negotiating and ownership of ideas with broader business objectives in mind and performed in an agile and efficient manner.

How would you describe activism? What are you doing to empower your staff?

CEB Market Insights members can access our case studies on activism and how companies like General Mills, Wrigley’s, and IBM are confronting this challenge.

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