Disruption and 3 MRIA Conference Takeaways

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Research industry veterans are quick to admit that conferences can be hit and miss.

This year’s “disruption” themed MRIA conference had lofty expectations, and did not disappoint. The sessions were full, the speakers were diverse, and the learnings were relevant.

Here are 3 key takeaways:

1. Disrupt the ‘Product’ Mindset

Research providers, rightly so, are facing mounting pressure to productize. Research products are typically faster and thus cheaper than their ‘custom’ counterparts. They are also more scalable.

But, do productization and disruption go together?

For research consulting on-the-whole, probably not. In fact, flexibility to think ‘beyond the product’ may enable researchers to discover more meaningful solutions. For example, a flexible, diverse, qualitative interviewing approach could lead to participants feeling more involved in the outcome. A flexible, iterative and agile approach to a complex problem allows the researchers to adapt and follow new paths as they begin to understand the issues. We heard from a multitude of speakers who emphasize the need for flexibility, iteration, and change as a theme central to disruptive outputs.

Like most things, the best way forward is a balanced one. A balance of product-related efficiencies coupled with the ability to think bigger is truly disruptive.

2. Disrupt the “more questions = more value” equation

“Less is more” isn’t particularly disruptive.

It’s well established that shorter surveys lead to more engaged respondents. Shorter reports lead to more engaged marketing audiences. Shorter time to insights means brands are better adapted.

But what is disruptive is how research firms are executing shorter projects without sacrificing the depth of insights delivered to clients. Known respondents and better profiled insight communities are a key way brands are accomplishing this with their research partners.

3. Disruptive Innovation is Holistic

Henry Ford is credited with saying “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

In a disruptive research world, the “faster horses” result simply isn’t true. A disruptive researcher approach would consider the transportation system and the experience of riding horses in that context. This is a “jobs to be done” approach to innovation.

One conference talk about cashless payments suggested an adoption lag in mobile wallets is not because of consumers. Rather, it’s because of the technology or the ability of the industry to integrate this technology.

Design thinking and the implications for research were on full display at this year’s MRIA. It’s very likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and one that Maru/Matchbox is exploring with much interest.

In Conclusion

If research consulting is a blend of art and a science, this conference was an artistic renaissance. Breaking free of the product mold, minimalizing distortion, and design-centric innovation are all disrupting the industry.