BrainTrust Query: Getting Research Transformation to Stick
Commentary by Joel Rubinson, Chief Research Officer, The Advertising Research
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an
excerpt from a current article from the Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research
At the ARF’s first Research Transformation super-council
meeting in early May, we heard a sobering factoid from McKinsey: 70 percent
of all transformation efforts fail. So, how do we make sure that our research
transformation initiative is a lasting metamorphosis rather than something
that reverts back to old beliefs and ways of working?
One of the great insights
from the meeting came from Gaurav Bhatnagar, assoc. partner at McKinsey, who
said that most transformation initiatives are impelled by an “oh sh*t” motivation
which, he noted, is not sustainable. As soon as things start getting a little
better, the sense of urgency diminishes to the point that the transformation
mandate loses its steam. So while this is a great way to create a call to action,
a transformation must also find the “oh
wow” for the whole organization.
The original motivator for the ARF research
transformation initiative was from an ARF meeting in July 2008 about listening
methods, which quickly became a discussion about how the research function
is not making the impact on organizations that it should be. At that meeting,
leaders said things like:
- “We have lost the capacity to listen for the unexpected.”
- “Surveys are torture.”
- And the famous Kim Dedeker (then at P&G) remark, “Research as
we know it will be on life support by 2012.”
Clearly, we had our “oh crap” call to action. To make our transformation
sustainable, we must find the “oh wow” and we need to find it for
the organization, not just for the research profession, to make our transformation
sustainable. Guarav also noted organizations don’t transform, unless people
Brand narratives should be about the “oh wow” and changing
the belief systems of people, meeting the McKinsey acid test for lasting transformations.
Here are selected passages from the research brand narrative created at the
- Research used to be about the what (data), then about the so what? (analysis).
Today, we go to the now what? (strategy, action), and we find ourselves accountable
for the business results of what we recommend.
- We need to create a new breed of “researcher”: inquisitive
and courageous by nature; analytical by training. They are passionate about
understanding consumers, translating insights into business opportunities,
leveraging social sciences and analytic skills, and then using storytelling
to communicate these insights in unforgettable ways.
- While some decision makers may prefer to trust their own instinct, and
some traditional researchers are more comfortable crunching numbers than
“listening” to consumers, they are today’s minority and against great odds.
We must understand that the big innovative successes will always be driven
by human and market insights and that this is the new path forward.
Discussion Question: What will it take to transform consumer research to
meet today’s business needs? What needs to take place to create the “oh wow”
epiphanies to change belief systems at the c-level?