Jan 27, 2012 by

On February 4th 2010, which seems like a lifetime ago now, I remember commenting on a Research Live article. There were several key figures who had summed up in one word what they thought Market Research would ‘be’ in 2010. Some people chose the word ‘consolidation’, ‘ethnography’, probability, fulcrum (whatever that means!) rewind, listening and so on. Unsurprisingly to those who know me, (but perhaps surprising for those who don’t and work in research) I chose the word ‘creativity’. Here is what I wrote:


In 2010, I see ‘creativity’ as the plan Market Researches will use in order to:

  • Evolve their businesses
  • Make intelligent efforts to save money
  • Come up with new, feasible, valid ideas to increase response rates and find new ways to communicate with our consumers.

For a long time we have had trial and error with ideas that were created, seemingly, just for the sake of it. I think this year, where as Phyllis MacFarlane said: “Recession is the mother of invention” people will be more determined to make their ideas work, ideas which still put quality as the top priority.

I still think creativity in research will rear it’s pretty head higher above the surface of traditional market research. No surprises there that I still believe people will open their minds, think outside the box and experiment.

Please keep in mind however, that I’m not being ‘fluffy’ or ‘hippie-like’ when I talk about creativity. Being creative includes a range of many skills and I don’t need to remind you that some of the most beautiful things around us are functional as well as nice to look at.

I think veterans and sceptics in research hugely undervalue encouraging creative thinking.  As do many teachers. Am I too naïve to believe project managers will eventually challenge the very surveys their sending out and push for change? No, I am seeing it happen already.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a right or left side of the brain person.  You, yes you reading this, you understand the value of creativity. I bet you can look up from your screen and see something around you which has benefited from a creative mind.

The internet today and most websites have evolved to be more interactive, intuitive and engaging in their aesthetic. Unfortunately our surveys have not kept up with this trend and as a result DON’T LOOK LIKE ANYTHING ELSE ON THE INTERNET TODAY.

While many researcher companies plough time, effort and animation into their own websites to engage clients, the same service and level of enthusiasm is unfortunately not (in the majority) applied to surveys in order to attract respondents who are the spine of our industry. Priorities, anyone?

Being creative and thinking outside of the box doesn’t mean ‘art‘or design necessarily. I think more researchers will pick up a book or two on areas still involved with research but perhaps not in their remit of work. Pick up a book on anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, biology, neurolinguistic programming, programming, UI design etc and then your experiments (based on your learning) will take you to levels of creating research methodologies you will never have thought of before.

Creativity cannot be scalable, I heard someone say. Bollocks. Creativity available en masse is all around you. Don’t stay in your box for bonuses and targets or because you’re afraid that your last few years of tracker might be highlighted as ‘bad data’ if you chose to do something different and it worked for you (or your respondents).

Don’t go to work at 9am and clock off at 6pm and be a nodding robot. Do what you went in to do: understand people. Ask yourself before soft-launching every project “Would I take part in this survey?” and “Does this survey get to the root of what people are really thinking and feeling?”

Let me leave you with this:

Creativity is much like light in a darkened room. Once the light is on, it touches every surface and brightens even the most mundane of things. After the light has made everything visible to you, you will find It hard to imagine that the light was every off and never want to be in the dark again.

Creativity is the same thing. We just need someone (or some people) to flick the switch.