Last night a DJ saved my life! Or why researchers need DJ skills

The information for generating good consumer insights is out there! The challenge for researchers and clients is to adequately tap into this vast amount of data. New methods bring a lot of uncertainty and debate. Many incumbent researchers have talent but lack the contemporary skills to make the best out of the new information world. They revert to breaking down whatever touches the fundamentals of what they are used to. If both client and agency researchers want to keep pace with the latest developments in gaining consumer insights they need to adapt their skills at several levels:

  1. Design & data generation. Consumers generate most information from experiences which are relevant to them. Establishing rapport, being good entertainers, journalists, ethnographers … are becoming at least as important as interviewing.
  2. Technical & analytical understanding. Of course it does not mean statistics are no longer valuable. In this era of data overload the researcher of the future will actually need good statistical, software and database understandings.
  3. Consultative research. The ultimate goal of research not changed though: insight generation for better decisions. But the story told through research needs to be an experience for decision makers as well. Triangulation, multi-medial and short powerful messages are key!

A lot of the evolution of our skills is in triggering, observing and sensing the information consumers self-generate daily. That’s why researchers have to become DeeJays! DJ’s play and select songs for an audience from their wealthy music collection. The successful ones provide a creative mix, fit to the mood which makes the crowd go wild. They are the cool new super stars, not necessarily the original musicians. What makes DJ’s successful is that they feel the audience and have the guts to experiment without forgetting tradition: they re-use old riffs and blend it with contemporary elements.
So how can researchers take advantage?

  • Involve the young. Surround yourself with ambitious digital natives or Gen Y’ers. They will prevent foreign thinking and take things forward.
  • Develop partnerships between research agencies, suppliers and end-clients that share a passion for innovation. Experiment with new methods via R&D projects and explore the limits and possibilities of the new.
  • Publish and share the results and experiences in all openness. Instead of bluntly downplaying the new, all stakeholders learn much more from directness and the young talent will be seduced by what we do as an industry too.
  • Develop a major and a minor specialization in your skill set. The contemporary researcher will be less of a specialist over the course of his/her career, but a fusion researcher blending different skills.

As such, we will build end-client expertise as well as research agency knowledge and prevent from becoming a mere product of the past. It means we need to take a risk, but if we do it jointly it will hamper any unrealistic expectations. Only by adhering to such principles we can make true improvements, develop talent and ultimately prevent the crowd wants to “hang the DJ”.
(Article by Prof. Dr. Niels Schillewaert and Tom De Ruyck, featured in Research World – Issue 22)

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