Already it seems cliched to comment on the unexpectedness of 2020 and the unprecedented changes that it has wrought. Nevertheless, it is still remarkable, not least as we continue to grapple with the impact on our lives overall as much as the specific changes to our professional roles.
In our recent webinar, transformative researchers Shelly Bouren from the Detroit Pistons, Krista Hilton, Ph.D. from ADP, and Tiffany Ng from Experian came together to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 in their world. They discussed what’s transformed, what’s status quo, and everything in-between. (If you missed their conversation from last year – September 2019 – it is still very much worth a listen).
This year’s conversation was extremely rich, giving a welcome insight into each of their worlds. Despite being in different organizations and holding different roles, it is interesting to hear many similarities. Three themes emerged from the discussion: 1) emphasis on human connection, 2) resourceful research approaches using our existing toolkit, and 3) the increasingly strategic – and valuable – role of insight.
Emphasis on Human Connection
We are connecting even more as humans. The pandemic has forced us to look at ourselves and others holistically – parent, spouse, friend, as well as a professional. This means relating to colleagues in different ways, building empathy, and responding to each other more deeply. Remote working also means working harder at these relationships, and to also ensure being part of the right conversation at the right time within the organization. It is, as Krista said, about being a ‘relationship strategist’. This is also mirrored in how we are thinking about and talking with our research participants.
Resourceful Research Approaches Using Existing Toolkit
Naturally, there’s more use of online tools but it’s also interesting to hear how they – and other approaches already in our toolkit – are being used in different ways. For example, employing in-home webcam IDIs and taking time to focus on participants’ environments to understand their daily life and competing priorities, adding surveys to IDIs to get additional information without burdening people’s time or leaning more into online communities. As Shelly notes, with the focus on understanding people, the comfort level is now there to look at different approaches, which in the future may be in-home exploration to see the full person and not just the fan. Beyond primary data collection approaches, there is also a definite movement towards the synthesis of big and small data for a holistic view.
The Accelerating Strategic – and Valuable – Role of Insight
Early on in the conversation, all panelists discussed the strategic nature of questions being asked – for many there’s a pause where people are taking a step back and reflecting on what’s needed from a data and insight perspective to move forward. At the same time as the slow down to reflect, there’s the need for more questions to be answered. Ultimately, this is putting the spotlight on insights and elevating the perceived value of insights as a whole. As Tiffany concluded, businesses aren’t satisfied with just insights, they want foresight. She believes we are seeing the industry shift as it moves to answer how can we leverage all the different insights, all the different data points, to start driving strategy for businesses. Once we’ve answered that, that’s where we are going to find our niche.
I believe all these areas are extremely positive for us as an industry, and despite the uncertain times, there’s a lot to look forward to in the months and years ahead.