Connecting the world of real people with the world of business!
“people in this country have had enough of experts”
Does this soundbite from Michael Gove have any resonance within the world of insight? Perhaps we too are losing touch with people when we should be the ones understanding them and representing them within the world of decision making. We haven’t exactly got a brilliant track record in reading the research runes in 2016! Perhaps we are too much part of the ‘liberal consensus’ and are subject to a confirmation bias in our reading of the data.
Our drift into specialism silos is probably not helping. Should we be trusting the big data? Or reading the social media sentiment more accurately? Or crawling back to the comfort of the ‘small data’ world and the group discussion? Does the tracking study have any friends left?
The eloquent Jim Carroll tells the story of the Horniman’s walrus. The walrus in the Horniman museum was stuffed (in the 19th century) by a taxidermist who had never seen a walrus. The result was he filled all the available skin with stuffing losing the characteristic sags and folds of a real walrus. How much research suffers from a lack of awareness of what people are really like – in their real lives as opposed to under the microscope of research? (Read Jim’s more stylish version here http://www.jimcarrollsblog.com/blog/2016/7/1/the-horniman-walrus )
I wonder how much we read about ‘Millennials’ has been written following actual interaction with these mythical beasts?
In 1983 Ralf Dahrendorf (who was, at the time, President of the Market Research Society) called for more ‘straddlers’; by which he meant people who were experienced in the world of decision making and who also understood research. Despite being a rather ugly word I think it is a very useful concept. We need straddlers who can connect the various silos that now forms insight. We also need straddlers who can connect the world of real people with the world of business (and government!).
Perhaps that is too ambitious in the world of ever growing and changing possibilities. What we need are teams that can cross these boundaries and yet still communicate effectively with one another. Teams that are not simply ‘echo chambers’ for our own confirmation bias, but ones that stretch knowledge and opinion for more effective use of insight.