I recently attended a unique event hosted by three vendors who are, at times, competitors: Communispace, BrainJuicer, and OTX. It was a nice change from industry events, and a place to interact with top executives of each of these companies as well as a very nice mix of their own clients from large brands that any of us in MR would recognize. It was a very energizing afternoon, thanks in part to the opening exercises by John Kearon (BrainJuicer's 'Chief Juicer'). I would be embarrassed to come out of the experience without some thoughts to share on the blog. Here are the topics of discussion that really stuck with me:

  1. According to Ari Popper of BrainJuicer, we humans are unreliable witnesses to our own behavior. Case in point: a quick poll of the room, showed that 100% of us thought that our IQ was higher than half the people in the room. (Defying the bell curve!) This led to some very interesting discussion around Mass Anthropology via the Web, as well as Mass Ethnography (a methodology that’s still being perfected by the company).
  2. Still according to Ari, we rely on gut more than thinking when making a decision. This fit with his points on Mass Prediction, which is based on people’s choices on what ideas or products they would buy/sell shares in. In a test from Brainjuicer, this led to an accurate prediction that the movie Alvin and the Chipmunks would be an unexpected success. Who would have thought?
  3. Diane Hessan from Communispace presented 8 rules for transformation in market research, and successfully riled up some discussion among the crowd. The rules I most agreed with: cutting edge technology + poor research design = bad research, and don’t mistake data for insight. The ones I was more skeptical about: Don’t underestimate the power of n=1 (My take: a seemingly great idea or valuable viewpoint from one consumer still warrants level-setting within a larger N), resist the urge to put customers in a bucket (My take: the bigger challenge is finding buckets/segmentations that are meaningful). We’ve actually included  some related thoughts on segmentation in our own market research predictions for 2010.
  4. Shelley Zalis, the CEO of OTX (which was just acquired by Ipsos) gave a very inspiring talk on how to actually innovate – regardless of industry. But the advice that resonated most for market researchers: The words ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ don’t mean anything anymore. They must live together in order to create knowledge.

The overarching message, which my team is also tracking, is that now is the time to innovate in market research — be it around dipping into new methodologies, updating staid research processes, or engaging as collaborators rather than erecting research bottle-necks.

I would welcome your thinking on how some of these insights strike you. Do they feel new to you? Do they feel realistic? Constructive? What other innovative trends or vendors have you been following?