As I read over the preliminary GRIT results this year, I tried to keep in mind Yoda’s dictum about trying to see the future. GRIT results are no different than other survey data. They tell us about where people are, what they fear and what their intentions are… all very useful data. But they have the limitations as other survey data.
- Actual behavior never perfectly aligns with stated intentions.
- Market forces are unpredictable and can alter future behavior in unintended ways.
- Technological development is even more unpredictable.
Change as a constant
I’ve often spoken about our industry’s unwillingness to embrace change. While many may not like it, I think we have now reached a point where people are accepting that change is a way of life. I think we got here for a number of reasons. First, 20 years of upheaval. Second, the GRIT Report (hard to refute research) and events like IIeX put the issue front and center. Third, and perhaps most important, I think there is a realization that nothing can replace the expertise that we as researchers have. New methods, tools and sources of data are wonderful things, but only in the right hands.
Pace of change
If anything, I think too many people are expecting change that comes quickly and is transformational. In my view, neither is likely. Think about this— the obituary of telephone surveys was written in the mid ‘90s and yet there are still plenty being done. At the time I disagreed with those saying phone would be dead within 5 years, but I have to say even I’ve been surprised by how slow a death it is experiencing. Still, there is no question the industry was transformed. Since the advent of the web there have been many other predicted transformations… remember CRM? More recently neuroscience was going to do it, but it is mentioned less and less in the GRIT surveys.
Now it is ‘big data’; why do surveys when you already know the answer? I have little doubt that big data will replace some research that is being done (it might well be the final nail in the coffin of big tracking studies), but I am highly skeptical that it will replace it all.
Adaptability requires curiosity
So, does that mean we can just sit tight? Of course not! Change is a constant and if the research industry wants to thrive we need to be aware of the new ideas and technologies that are out there, open to benefits they offer and willing to actually use them when they are better than what we do today. It is worth noting that better doesn’t mean that they offer a lower margin of error or higher representativeness. Better simply means that they help a client make better decisions. This often might mean nothing more than the ability to provide answers in time to be relevant.
To that end, the open ended responses to the question “If researchers want to be successful in 30 years, the one thing they should be doing right now is… “reflect a range of opinions from big data to wearables and text analytics to being data agnostic. Are any of these transformative? We will see. But, the great thing is, the industry is curious and trying to find ways to use these and other tools to drive better results.
Divergent industry sentiments
The most intriguing result in the GRIT survey is the relative optimism of agencies and pessimism on the client side. No doubt this can reflect many things – form agencies being delusions to client-side researchers being frustrated by staff reductions and budget cuts. I’m hopeful that it might also mean clients are pessimistic that agencies can step up and deliver on the more complex needs they have while agencies’ embrace of change means they know otherwise.
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