Around this time of year, one can’t help but become reflective. I know I’m not alone when I say that, on the one hand, this year somehow shot past faster than the last one, but on the other hand, it was jam-packed with new discoveries, fresh ideas, and memorable experiences. In particular, this has been a milestone year for the data insights innovation team here at Forrester, as we officially launched our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes mobile behavioral, social listening, online qualitative, and survey data. As I think back on my experiences with the Technographics 360 initiative inside Forrester, paired with my industry learnings outside Forrester, a few key lessons come to mind that I will take into the new year:

1.       Synthesis is “in.” In fact, I learned so much about this topic, I wrote a full blog post dedicated to it! In essence, we now live in a world where the truest insight is a product of synthesis – building knowledge up – rather than of analysis – breaking ideas down. I recently attended SSI’s seminar featuring Simon Chadwick, who proposed that data synthesis is “the next big thing” in insight skills. I agree: With so many diverse data sources at our fingertips that offer unique perspectives on consumers’ lives, researchers need to put the puzzle pieces together to construct a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.

2.       Look for meaning, not magnitude. In this age of big data, research efforts no longer focus on data collection – data isn’t scarce and doesn’t need to be brought forth by way of laborious, costly measures. Instead, researchers need to focus on data integration and curation; through strategic data acquisition and critical thinking, researchers can identify nuances in trends and unearth actionable insight. I recently finished reading Keeping up with the Quants, where authors Jinho Kim and Thomas H. Davenport aptly state: “No matter what data you have, there is always the possibility of getting more data. One way to improve analytical impact is to get better data. Not more data, but data that’s different from what has been used to solve the problem so far.” This message echoes a speech by Malcolm Gladwell that I attended in the fall. Gladwell advised that true meaning stems from quality of attitude and creativity, rather than from quantity of tools and technology.

3.       The “what” and “why” are the yin and yang of insight. Behavioral economics has left an indelible mark on market research. The philosophy that regards consumers as irrational beings affects data collection and data interpretation techniques alike. Many are no longer comfortable predicting consumer behavior based on stated intentions or attitudes alone – instead, we are looking to creative research methods to give us additional insight into how and why consumers act. This effort is reflected in the industry’s embrace of qualitative techniques like market research online communities and mobile qual, as noted in the latest GRIT Report and as I observed at IIeX earlier this year. Researchers recognize that by understanding psychological and emotional drivers, we can get ahead of the consumer’s decision and architect an effective experience, rather than retrospectively respond to one. I spoke about this at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in November and look forward to pursuing this research further in the coming months.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful new year and a successful start to 2015!