Reineke Reitsma [Posted by Reineke Reitsma]

Last week I co-hosted a session at Forrester's Consumer Forum on innovative research. John Kearon, CEO of Brainjuicer, lead a discussion with panel members Sion Agami from Procter and Gamble, Jan Angel from Altria and Bob Pankauskas from Allstate.

These three market researchers shared how introducing innovations to the research mix lead to additional insights and increased commitment from senior management. But it's not always easy. Some best practices they've shared with the audience:

Dare to take risks. Market Research is a conservative industry. Innovative research challenges the certainties of research, like representativity or sample size. Market Research Online Communities or Prediction Markets approach research questions from a different perspective. Most often this leads to fresh insights, but for some projects or products this isn't the right approach.

Start small. One audience member shared a story about how he used innovation to get his executive team more involved in research outcomes: "Adding the emotion to the numbers" as he said. He invited his executives to meet with their customers in an informal setting: a diner. There was a professional qualitative interviewer in the room in case the conversation went astray, but the customers were coming up with topics and stories. The result was more senior commitment for follow-up research projects.

Stick to what's relevant to you. Several panel members mentioned that when they've met with some innovative research partners (like Invoke Solutions, Brainjuicer, Communispace) they immediately saw opportunities but they also struggled to make this fit into their research culture. At least two of them worked with their vendors to find a way to make the research methodology fit their specific needs.

Collaborate internally. One of the largest challenges of innovative methodologies is the acceptation of the results internally. Questions will come up, like: If it's not representative, what's it worth? How do we translate this to our target group? The panel members agreed that the best way to tackle this issue is to involve the research users from the beginning and introduce them step-by-step to the new methodology.

Failure doesn't exist. The theme of the presentation was that failure leads to innovation. During the discussion it became clear that failure doesn't really exist in Market Research. If you're at the stage of product launch it's a different story, but for MR even non-expected results are insightful. One audience member shared that they've for example developed a quicker and easier methodology for client segmentation (using images) as a side result of a less successful innovative research project.

These are just a couple of my take-aways. Innovation doesn't necessarily need failure, but it does need a lot of commitment from the market researcher department to drive this internally. However, all panel members felt whole-heartily that it was definitely worth the investment.

I'm interested in your stories. Which hurdles did you have to take to innovate? What did it bring you? Or what is holding you back from taking the step?