[GRIT COMMENTARY] Keeping Humans at the Heart of Research
2017 Q1-Q2 GRIT Report commentary by Laura Livers, CEO of Focus Pointe Global, sharing her thoughts on the current state of the market research industry.
One of the major themes that runs throughout this edition of GRIT is the advent of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other methods of applying technology to take the human out of research. We’re all for creating efficiency and positive business impact through innovation, but perhaps it’s worthwhile to consider that our future may not be wholly defined by robotics and automation, but by the melding of human and technology focused on purposeful innovation.
Over and over again in GRIT we see the warning signs that our embrace of tech has limits. A few examples:
- In the questions around the future of sampling, the dominant theme in the verbatim questions are about quality and respondent experience.
- In the questions around automation we see lower uptake on attempts to automate many aspects of research that are human led.
- In the section on the skills post-secondary graduates should have, the very human-centric skills of storytelling, critical thinking, and business acumen stand out.
- In the Benchmarking section the need to influence, leverage, and create organizational impact stand out as the hallmarks of success.
Our industry has an uneasy relationship with technology right now and we would argue rightfully so.
As more and more of the process of conducting research, especially quantitative research and analytics, is shifted to tech-based solutions to answer the “who, what, when, where, and how” of business questions, our view is that researchers will be always be the ones who answer the “why and now what?”
In the realm of qualitative research, which is a major part of our business, this is even more apparent. Recruiting, moderation, facility experience, project management and deliverables may all be enhanced by technology, but we cannot see a path where humans are not the primary drivers of the client and participant experience.
Purposeful innovation that leverages the real efficiencies technology can create on process, combined with a focus on ensuring the human-centered service necessary to deliver a good experience to research participants, clients, and internal teams should be the cornerstone of the evolving industry. This critical differentiator may be what ultimately separates research from being absorbed into the tech-led business intelligence sector and finally delivers the much-talked about “seat at the table” that researchers are aiming for.
The integration of humans and technology in research is unavoidable, but as long as we stay focused on the importance of the human element as the driver of real value and impact the research industry will continue to thrive.