Anyone Can Innovate!

We make innovation too hard.

When we think of innovation, we think of “disruptive innovation.”  We think of innovations like the light bulb, the transistor, the microchip, Google and, maybe, Uber.  Disruptive innovations change the way we live.  But most innovations are not disruptive.  They are incremental.

My Uncle Bill was an engineer and a professional tinkerer.  In the 1970s, he had the first mobile phone I ever saw.  It was in his car.  When he came to visit, he would call us when he was on his way.  We thought it was amazing.  In reality, his “mobile phone” was a radio with phone-like features that sent a signal to a tower across the valley on Mt. Nebo.  That tower converted the signal and put it into the phone system.

Craig McCaw and others recognized that if you build more towers, each tower becomes a “cell” to capture the signal and pass it along to other “cells” or connect to the phone system.  Thus, cell phones were born.  In about 1989, I had one of these “cell phones” hard-wired into my car.  It looked much like Uncle Bill’s radio phone of the 1970s.  As battery technology improved phones did not have to be hard-wired to the car battery any more.  So, today, we have true mobile phones.  They have changed our lives through incremental innovation and technology improvement.

Sudden disruptive innovations that quickly transform our lives are rare.  Trying to create a sudden disruptive innovation is a bit like playing the lottery, a lot of people play but very few actually win.  When there is a winner, it is BIG.  The winner gets a lot of press as a great innovator.  He or she becomes like a rockstar.  Everyone knows him/her.  So, to us, our tendency is to think of innovation as disruptive innovation.  We also recognize that the road to disruptive innovation is daunting.  Most of us would have difficulty creating sudden disruptive innovations…and we know it.  So, we often don’t try.  This is mindset is wrong because we set the standard of innovation too high.

In truth, anyone can innovate.  Innovation is about making things better than they were before.  It is about identifying a problem and solving it. Innovation is about challenging the status quo and asking the question, “What if…”  It is rarely disruptive; it is usually incremental.  But incremental innovations often become disruptive just as my Uncle Bill’s radio phone did when it evolved into a mobile smartphone.

Over the past several years, 20|20 has gained quite a reputation for innovation.  Recently 20|20 was named to the GRIT “Most Innovative Supplier Companies in Market Research” list for the 4th year in a row at #11.  We simply envision a better research future and ask the question “What if…”  We seek to advance the practice of research so we innovate.  We may not change the world overnight, but we are improving the way researchers understand customers.

In 2016, 20|20 is introducing several new innovations that envision better, easier and faster research than ever before.  You can participate in the Spring Innovations webinar or another 20|20-hosted webinar to learn about how to apply innovations to your research methods by clicking here.

 Go innovate!  Its not as hard as it sounds and its a heckuva lotta fun.

Are you CHILES-G?

One of the problems of a growing company is hiring the right people.  As it turns out, skill sets are the easy part. Skills can be hired or taught.  The leader who wants to hire well must identify people who fit into, and even advance, the culture.  As I mentioned in my last post, “Leaders Drive Culture.  Culture Drives People. People Drive Business,” it is the leader’s job to drive culture so people throughout the organization know how to act and respond in a consistent way.  The wrong people are cultural roadblocks, or even cancerous, in an organization.  Consistent hiring is hard enough when the leader is doing all he hiring.  As an organization grows, consistent hiring is extremely difficult.

So how can a leader ensure that the organization hires people who advance the culture?  

There is no silver bullet.  Overall culture is a huge determinant of hiring.  But, managers need more explicit direction.  So, at 20|20, we developed an acronym that describes the type of person who is generally successful at 20|20.  The acronym is CHILES-G.  Here is what it means:

  • Curious
  • Humble
  • Intelligent
  • Likable
  • Enthusiastic
  • Service Oriented
  • Gritty

Its simple, memorable and it works for us.  If your company is growing, I recommend that you find something that identifies the people you want in your company.  As a leader you can’t hire them all, but its your responsibility to be sure the new hires advance the organization.

At 20|20, we are CHILES-G.

Leaders Drive Culture. Culture Drives People. People Drive Business.

The more our company grows, the more I realize how crucial culture is to our success.  We are in a service business.  As we grow, I personally interact with fewer and fewer of our clients on a regular basis.  So, how do I ensure that the people who do interact with our clients treat them as I would have treated them?  The answer is “culture.”

Leaders Drive Culture.  Culture is set by expectations and training, but mostly it is set by example and rewards.  Company leaders, especially the CEO, set culture.  What do they celebrate?  What do they value?  What do they punish?  How do they treat clients, vendors and employees?  What do they preach?  What are their actions (which speak louder than words)?  Finally, do they have a method for hiring people who not only fit the culture but can promote it?  Company leaders set the culture.  So, they must be able to articulate it and consciously promote it every day.

Culture Drives People.  Culture is crucial.  More than rules, training or speeches, culture provides the guardrails for accepted and desired behavior in an organization.  Businesses are small societies that develop their own mores and expectations.  These mores and expectations become understood and ingrained in the members of this micro-society (i.e., employees).  Their actions reflect the culture of their shared society.  Thus, the established culture (mores and expectations) drives their behavior.

People Drive Business.  We are a service business that happens to be in the technology space.  Our clients depend on our people to be excellent at what they do and to treat everyone with the respect and professionalism they deserve.  Without people a business cannot exist.  Without people doing the right things, a business dies.  Without culture, people don’t know how to act or make decisions, especially when the “handbook” doesn’t apply.  Simply, culture gives employees context for acting.

Sometimes we take culture for granted.  A very small business derives culture by osmosis from its founder.  A larger business must take culture seriously.  As a business grows, leaders must be intentional about developing and maintaining a culture that gives all employees the context they need to make the right decisions that promote the business and project the brand.  Otherwise, inconsistency and individual personality will rule and the business will flounder.

MR is at a Social Responsibility Crossroads

We have come to a crossroads. Which way shall we go?

At the Market Research Society Conference in March, Research-Live.com reported that Unilever CEO Paul Polman urged the industry to get involved in larger societal issues. He stated that we are in a “leadership moment for the market research profession” and that “by prioritising social issues, business success will follow.” Mr. Polman challenged the audience to realize that “business as usual is not the answer.”

Historically, “business as usual” dictated that a corporation should generate increasing earnings for its shareholders. With some exceptions, the view was that the shareholders’ used the earnings in whatever manner they preferred, including gifts to charity or affecting the societal issues of the day. The business focused on earning profits; shareholders were responsible for distributing/spending profits.

For several years now, we have heard about the Millennial workforce’s desire for an activist workplace where volunteering and social activism were valued.  Now, we hear the CEO of the world’s third largest CPG company stating that social issues ‘lead to’ (rather than ‘are a result of’) business success.  Mr. Polman suggests that corporations have a social responsibility first and a shareholder responsibility second.  Mr. Polman appears to have a two-fold purpose:  (1) to activate companies to be more socially responsible, and, (2) to use social responsibility as a strategy leading to greater business success.  Both are significant diversions from the traditional role of companies.

So, which road shall we take?  Should companies (and researchers) continue to focus almost exclusively on providing increasing returns to shareholders or should they take the road less traveled and put first priority on being socially responsible?  Each company (and researcher) must decide for itself.  The two options are distinctly different.  Which way will you choose?

Paul Polman’s raising of this issue coincides with another industry initiative to bring a sense of community and social activism to the MR industry. In January, a group of researchers formed the Marketing Research Education Foundation (MREF).  It is an independent foundation with a mission to, “To unifyinspire and activate the marketing research community to focus its collective resources to educate children worldwide.”  Founding Board members are:  Steve Schlesinger, Carla Lindeman, Ed Sugar, Steve Quirk, Don Marek, Howard Gershowitz and myself.

MREF debuted at the Quirks Event in Brooklyn in February where it presented a check for $5000 to Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, a New York-based non-profit dedicated to the training and education of disadvantaged youth.  This was a small but significant start.  Plans are to repeat this at other conferences and to bring researchers together in hands-on volunteer opportunities to further the education of children worldwide.  You will hear more about this initiative in the coming weeks.

Whether you are Unilever or a home-based researcher, the prioritization of social responsibility is a decision you will have to make.  You are at a crossroads.  Which road will you take?


The Coming of Quant+Qual Integrated Research

The days of the two phase research project are over!!!!

Well, not really, but they are becoming less necessary.  Typically, quantitative and qualitative research are conducted in two phases for many reasons.  Sometimes, there is a clear insight-related necessity for a two-phase research project, often there is not.  In many cases, quantitative and qualitative designs include two phases because of logistical reasons such as the time required for recruiting qualitative, the time required to analyze qualitative or the travel required to conduct qualitative in various cities.  Today’s qualitative researcher has tools available to eliminate each of these issues.

Todays digital research tools make integrated quantitative and qualitative research easier than ever while introducing some real advantages.

  1. Lower cost.  The survey does double-duty as the recruiting screener.
  2. Faster.  No wasted time between phases.  The quant/qual research design takes no longer than a quantitative survey.
  3. Deeper Quantitative Insights.  Depth qualitative conducted alongside the survey provides opportunity to get the reasons and motivators behind survey responses.
  4. More Engaging Reports.  Respondent video (webcam, mobile, etc.) enhances reports and presentations with powerful customer testimony.

Technology can link directly to almost any survey platform.  The link can select potential respondents based on survey answers and even send them through an additional screener if necessary.  The qualitative experience occur in the middle of a survey or after the survey has completed.  Once selected and opted-in, respondents can participate in virtually any qualitative experience.  Some of the most common are: webcam interviews, mobile interviews, chat interviews and QualBoard discussions with or without video uploads.

Quant/qual integration is a trend that is growing rapidly.  20|20’s CIO, Isaac Rogers, will present a Quirk’s webinar titled, “THE QUANT+QUAL PARADIGM: 3 Integrative Strategies for Today.”  It is free and will provide examples and hands-on techniques you can use immediately.  Click here to register.

20|20 Employees Investing in Children


Screenshot 2014-12-30 20.40.17Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Teach a child to think and you change a nation.

In 2014, the employees and friends of 20|20, did many good things through the 20|20 Doing Good Initiative.  They volunteered for a cure to heart disease, walked for breast cancer, wrote Christmas cards to soldiers overseas, even donated socks to the homeless.  I’m proud of all these things.

I’m also very proud of the impact they are making on the future of the island nation of Haiti through their support of The Joseph School.  This year 20|20 employees donated clothing, medicine, diapers and other supplies that the poor and orphaned children of Haiti cannot afford.  Eight of us traveled to Haiti in June to see firsthand the work that needs to be done and to better understand the vision of The Joseph School.

As the year winds down, The Joseph School produced a slideshow of its activities in 2014.  We thought you might want to see it and get a glimpse of why we are so excited to be supporting this dream.  We want to help those who are most vulnerable today grasp the opportunity to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Doing good is not proprietary.  Good can’t be patented.  For good to blossom, it must be shared.  Click here then click on the picture to view The Joseph School’s slideshow.  Let us know if you would like to join us.  What will you do to change the world in 2015?


How Sex Launched Online Research

Note: While at the QRCA conference this fall, I picked up a new book Qual-Online the Essential Guide, by Jennifer Dale and Susan Abbott. I finally got around to reading it on a long flight. Fascinating. While in the Detroit airport waiting to change planes, I gave Jen a call to see if she would be willing to write a blog post about the very beginnings of online qual. She readily agreed. The following is the story she has uncovered. Read More…

Flight Cancellations Do Not Cancel Chicago IDIs

The weekend of September 28, the nation’s airways were rocked by a fire in the FAA control tower controlling the midwest, including O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.  Over 2000 flights were cancelled.  One of those included a moderator flying to Chicago on Sunday to conduct IDIs in a facility beginning Monday morning.  Here is the story of how the IDIs happened anyway as told through the email history of Sunday afternoon, September 28. Read More…

The Research Hype Cycle

Gartner recently released its Emerging Technology Hype Cycle for 2014.  The cycle phases themselves are as interesting as the technologies depicted.

  • Hype Cycle

Gartner’s research shows that there is an “Innovation Trigger” followed by the following four stages

  1. Peaks of Inflated Expectations
  2. Trough of Disillusionment
  3. Slope of Enlightenment
  4. Plateau of Productivity

Read More…

New Technology brings Emotion Research Online

Emotional understanding has always been the “holy grail” for qualitative research.  Focus groups, IDIs, ethnography and other methods have long been favored techniques to understand the emotional underpinnings of consumer decision-making.  Qualitative experts consider body language as a significant, and often more reliable, indicator of true feelings than the words people use.  Just how significant is hard to pin down.  In his paper “Silent Messages,” Albert Mehrabian contends that 55% of communication is through “facial liking.”  Whether this percentage is correct is debatable.  However, most agree that non-verbal interpretation plays a significant role in understanding emotional reactions to stimuli. Read More…

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