According to Fast Company, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Nissan, Groupon, Google, Dawning, Netflix, Zynga, and Epocrates are this year’s 10 most innovative companies. The key to their innovative success: they are adaptable, willing to scrap safe ideas, and they know what they stand for. As companies emerge from the recession, innovation is rising to the top of the corporate agenda. Executives cite innovation-led growth as a top strategic priority, and they’re increasingly looking to Market Research to link corporate-level direction to the voice of the customer. I like to think of this as a two part process. First, make sure Research gets to what truly matters. Build a research agenda around key business unknowns to ensure you’re acting on the most important needs and align research projects to core business drivers to gain a cross-silo perspective. After Research develops a strategy-backed agenda, and there’s a common direction for business partners and Research, the fun happens! The beginning of the innovation process is Market Research’s best opportunity to identify and build out innovation opportunities, collaborate with specialist users, and pressure test concepts. This ensures that product development and innovation stakeholders are making decisions truly based on customer understanding.
Type “personality quiz” into Google and you get about 2,380,000 results (plus or minus a few thousand). Quizzes offered range in seriousness – from those based on the hard-hitting Jung and Myers-Briggs personality types to the lighthearted Superhero Quiz (Superman!). Interest in personality typing is pretty easy to understand: we’ve all heard about the impact that personality has on job performance (humility and honesty make for a good worker); finding a fulfilling career (ISFJs are best suited for “nurturing” jobs like nursing or social work); choosing a life partner (birds of a feather flock together, or opposites attract?); even adopting a cat (are you most compatible with a love bug or a party animal?).
What about personality traits within Market Research? MREB’s own study of the drivers of insight explored which personality traits had a positive impact on insight generation, and what we found might surprise you!
Our conversations with Heads of Research functions were inconclusive in finding a common view of which personality traits were most important to insight – was it extroversion, which led researchers to engage others? Or conscientiousness, which ensures researchers to use the correct data inputs? Or could it be imagination, allowing them to break through conventional wisdom? We tested the following personality traits for their correlation with insight generation success:
- Intellectual curiosity
- Risk aversion
- Comfort with abstraction
We found that out of all these traits, which were quite defensible, only one had significant impact on insight generation – and that was intellectual curiosity. Subsequent interviews with researchers conﬁrmed that the inquisitive drive is, in their minds, a prerequisite for insightful work.
Hiring for intellectual curiosity, then, is a smart way for Research managers to increase the quality of insight generation on their teams. Unfortunately, that personality trait does not usually present itself on a resume; use behavioral interviewing techniques to draw it out. MREB members, view successful interviewing techniques from other members and learn more about ways to increase insight generation skills on your team.
Every team in a company seems to have one or two people that can accomplish large complex tasks – product launches, organizational redesign – at a speed and with an ease that outweighs their seniority or formal authority. These people are able to influence a course of events far more effectively than their peers.
Some are able to do so because they are naturally good at what management experts call “soft skills“, but many others have learned how to be influential; this is why those that set education policy have become as keen to develop children’s EQ (their “emotional intelligence quotient“) as their IQ. There are a number of things that successful influencers do that can be replicated, and even formally encouraged within your firm.
Six Ways to Be More Influential Read More »
By Anthony Bell
In a recent Research Live article, Nunwood’s (the customer insight agency) strategy director, David Conway, examines the recently published top 100 customer experience league table of UK companies. He breaks down the underlying driver of their high performance…Insight. So how are the top companies using insight to stay resonant with their consumers? The best organizations have found innovative ways to listen to, and understand, what their customers want.
- Amazon, number 1 on the league table, uses their recommendation engine, by processing vast quantities of customer insight, as a personalization tool, highlighting products which otherwise might have been missed in the purchasing decision.
- Marks & Spencer (#7) and M&S Food brand, (#4) heard customers’ concerns over the provenance of food and wellbeing of those who produce it. They responded to those with large scale in-store statements of how it’s improving its practices showing commitment not only to the brand but the concerns of their customers.
- Virgin Atlantic (#6) set customer satisfaction standards that put them a part in the airline industry. The customer satisfaction surveys monitor everything from punctuality of flight departures to the length of check-in lines, and of course quality of in-flight service. These results are continuously fed back to management for improvements. (The trick here: understanding which things to care about, FedEx can help you identify them.)
Check out the rest of the top ten here.
Those are the good stories, but what about the bad? Stall Points, CEB’s comprehensive analysis of business failures in the past fifty years, found that most stalls occur because of inadequate market understanding. Market Research plays a critical role in advising organizations to avoid potentially disastrous stalls. Identifying and Organizing Research around Core Business Drivers helps Research align to the most strategic challenges and provide quicker turnaround on senior level questions. The next step for Research is to extend customer knowledge to the broader audience. The MREB has profiled best-in-class scalable communications in our Knowledge Management and Portals Topic Center. Looking ahead, the MREB is working on the newest communication tools, performance measurements, and necessary organizational refinements in our latest research initiative, Putting Customer Insight at the Heart of the Business. Stay Tuned!
In CEB View’s last Talent Matters post we discussed how difficult it is to work for a bad boss. But what if, instead of working for one, you are one?
Of course it’s not easy being the boss. Research from CEB’s CLC Human Resources program shows that the three areas that most managers – even great ones – struggle with are evaluating employee performance, providing effective feedback, and turning around underperformance. These are hard things to do and because the way you do them directly affects your team, any missteps are likely to create friction.
Fortunately, the recession seems to have improved many employee-manager relationships but boss-bashing is still a favorite pastime (as proved by last week’s traffic on the first “bad boss” piece). So, how do you know if your employees are just letting off steam or if you are truly difficult to work with? Unfortunately, many bad bosses are the last to know how awful they are to work under. This may be because you aren’t getting the feedback you need, you’re disconnected from your employees or you just aren’t watching out for the signs.
Here are five indications that you may be a worse boss than you thought:
- Meetings happen without you: If you notice that your employees are getting together to talk about work and not including you, there may be a problem. When employees don’t believe a manager is competent or cares about their work, they are likely to find ways to work around him.
- Problems blow up before you hear about them: Employees feel comfortable going to good bosses when there is a conflict or an issue because they don’t fear retribution. If you haven’t signaled that you are a partner in solving problems, or worse that you will punish people who bring them to you, you are going to be the last to hear when something negative happens. This greatly hinders your ability to handle problems early on before they become disasters.
- You don’t know what your employees care about or enjoy doing: What motivates employees is not the same across the board. To inspire your people to go above and beyond, you have to get to know them through open and honest conversations. Struggling managers are often too consumed with themselves to learn more about their people.
- Your people don’t know where they stand: If you are one of those bosses that complain that your employees are insecure and always asking for your input or approval, ask yourself why they might be behaving that way. All people need effective feedback to do their jobs well. Good bosses don’t hesitate or neglect to tell employees whether they are performing well. Leaving your people in the dark will only lead to disengagement and confusion about what you want them to do.
- No one disagrees with you: Sometimes the worst bosses just assume everything is going well. They don’t hear about any problems and everyone seems to agree with every brilliant idea they have. It may be less that you are a genius and more that they are terrified of you. Open disagreement is a sign of a healthy and innovative work environment. If everyone is standing around nodding, it’s time to take a hard look at your leadership.
What To Do If It’s You
A recent post from Little Things Matter discusses how today’s reliance on electronic channels (whether e-mail, social media posts, or text messages) makes the typed word more important than ever. While clear communication can go a long way to develop and enhance an individual’s “brand,” it’s also essential in a business setting, where digital channels are being used more than ever. One might argue it’s even more essential for Researchers, who need to articulate complex ideas that can have serious consequences for the business.
Often, making just small changes to the way you write can have a big impact on the way your message is read and understood:
- Before writing anything down, think about what exactly it is you are trying to say so you can get to the point quickly and succinctly.
- Aren’t deadlines always “30 minutes ago?” Combat the negative effects of rushed writing by looking out for and avoiding these common mistakes.
- Especially important as Inboxes grow out of control, learn four tips for how to write an e-mail that gets read and understood.
As an alternative to e-mail communications, check out our Knowledge Management and Portals Topic Center. An effective portal can help Research provide easy access to information, prevent data abuse and overcome internal partners’ reliance on researchers’ help. MREB Members, look out for the latest findings around increasing customer knowledge across the broader organization.
By Anthony Bell
Research works hard to diagnose business partner decisions, develop the insight, and deliver actionable recommendations. But we sometimes fall short in presenting research findings that are clear, convincing and visually captivating? Don’t dilute the message of your presentation; avoid these common PowerPoint errors. MREB Members, interested in learning more about our presentation workshops? Reach out to our Advisory Team, email@example.com
Have you checked out the Harvard Business Review Blogs lately? Our friends at the Sales Executive Council were featured in a three part series focusing on coaching, communication, and engagement. I think we can learn a bit from the sales realm! Check them out below.
- The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching: Most sales organizations have invested more time and effort in the past 5 years in improving managers’ coaching of reps than they did in the previous fifty. But coaching is almost worthless when it targets the wrong reps, and SEC research reveals that management targets the wrong reps all the time. Find out who is most worthy of your coaching time.
- Are Your Sales Reps Spending too Much Time in Front of Customers? : This just in: salespeople are spending less time actually selling to customers than they were just five years ago. But before you pine for the “good old days” when reps spent more time in the customer’s office than in yours, what if having your reps spend less time face-to-face with customers might actually be a good thing? See how the last 5 years have changed the way star performers spend their time.
- When Money Doesn’t Speak Louder than Words: Every sales leader knows that compensation plays an important role in recruiting and retaining the best talent. But what senior executives often don’t realize is that how they communicate about pay can be as important as the pay plan itself. Is your compensation plan fair? Is it motivating? Test how confidently you can answer “yes” to these questions.
MREB Members, Check out the Staff Management Topic Center to tackle some of the Market Research function specific challenges around hiring, training and development, and career planning.
By Aaron Field
I’ve long thought that researchers can learn a ton from 18th century ocean navigation.
In 1714 the British Parliament offered the Longitude Prize for a simple and practical method to precisely determine a ship’s longitude. The prize was enormous – up to £20,000 pounds (worth £2,870,000 today).
Did the top design come from a learned mathematician? A professional navigator? Any sort of expert in the field?
The top design came from professional carpenter and amateur clockmaker John Harrison (1693 –1776). (Given his impact on the glory of the Royal Navy, Harrison earned 39th in the BBC’s 2002 public poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.)
Karim Lakhani, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Business School, recently reminded us of some cardinal rules for sourcing really original ideas.
Ignore the Average – Seek Marginality: The paradox is that experts in a field are poor innovators. Nobody doubts the 18th century navigator’s expertise yet their best efforts at the longitude problem proved woefully insufficient. The most innovative ideas always come from un-representative, un-average people. In short – seek different-ness. We quote Lakhani’s work on open source contests:
“Technical and social marginality, being a source of different perspectives and heuristics, plays an important role in explaining individual success in problem solving. The provision of a winning solution was positively related to increasing distance between the solver’s field of technical expertise and the focal field of the problem.”
MREB Members, our Boosting Insight Productivity helps build and foster the innovative research environment. Learn about the key drivers of insight, coaching methodologies, and insight focused research guidelines.
Don’t Generate Innovation – Screen for Innovation: The best ideas come from the margins but that doesn’t make it easy to spot. For instance Britain’s Board of Longitude spent the better part of the 18th century screening entries. In fact the needle in a haystack only magnifies the challenge. Lakhani challenges us in a recent Research World article:
“The role of internal research and development is even more critical in the selection of ideas, framing of questions, asking the right questions and interfacing with outsiders. Taking those ideas and turning them into practical applications is a massive, massive task, and that’s not going to go away.”
Well maybe a few problems.
The Board’s Innovation Support Center breaks down the innovation challenges into easier steps with best practices, survey data, white papers, and secondary literature to ease your travels.
Rising product commoditization and diminishing brand loyalty have compelled managers to turn to customer service to differentiate themselves from the competition. Ensure your Market Research team has a proper understanding of customer behavior, and customer loyalty in particular. Originally published in liveMint.com, our friends from the Customer Contact Council believe avoiding these six myths is a good starting point. Need help identifying customer behavior? MREB Members, get a comprehensive view of the consumer with Iconoculture’s Consumer Insights to understand what’s going on, why it’s happening, where the consumer is headed next and what it all means for business.