Living our values: Adaptive [5/7]

Part five of a blogpost series on the InSites Consulting company values.

As highlighted earlier when discussing our ‘Forward thinking’ value, there is only one constant in life: change. What is specific about change today is the speed with which we see it around us. It is said that human evolutionary change has been 100 times faster over the past 5,000 years than in any other period of human evolution. This ‘supercharged’ evolutionary change is mainly explained as the result of exponential population growth and cultural shifts. Growing from a few million people 10,000 years ago to 7,9 billion today, natural selection occurs much more frequently due to increased genetic variation, driving the speed of evolutionary change in accordance with Darwin’s theory.

Thinking of cultural shifts, the emergence of new technologies is definitely one of the major forces that are impacting human and societal behavior. Looking at how society has changed in the past decade, it’s fair to say that the primary disruption or revolution is the one caused by information technology. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this change. In fact, research by McKinsey has shown we vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in merely eight weeks.

Being open to change

“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

Just like a snake sheds its skin to allow for growth as well as to remove parasites along with the old skin, organizations need to continuously reinvent themselves in order to survive and remain successful. They need to show resilience when coping with adversity, and need to protect themselves from leaning back when facing stellar growth and success. All of this requires people to be okay with the idea of constant change around them, and to be open to personal change at any given time.

A great example is Madonna. Whether you like her music or not, you can’t really deny that she has been one of the most successful pop-music artists in the world. By continuously changing her looks, her image and the style of music she brings, Madonna has managed to stay relevant and successful, decade after decade. By changing along with (or even driving) changes in culture and society, she has been riding a very long success wave. Changing fast does not contradict with setting long-term ambitions. What Madonna has been offering her fans did not really change over time and was based on one strong consumer insight: “I want to escape the limitations of my daily routine life and enjoy the activity of fantasizing about alternative identities, lives or positions.”

So, what does ‘being adaptive’ mean to InSites Consulting?

Although InSites Consulting is known to the outside world as a marketing research company, its founders never really wanted to become market researchers. In hindsight, let’s say getting started in marketing research was a ‘fortunate mistake’ which enabled us to achieve a far bigger goal: having organizations embrace consumers as their ultimate consultants, driving impact throughout the entire organization all the way up to the boardroom. Quite a difference with our mission statement crafted more than 20 years ago: ‘Formulating, evaluating and refining e-marketing strategies with the objective of maximizing their impact among stakeholders’.

We created an environment that pushes us to change every day: by focusing exclusively on digital methods, we oblige ourselves to catch up with the latest trends and digital technologies; by choosing to be a growth company, we make ourselves adjust to an ever-increasing internal size and complexity; by working with a team spread across the globe, we are engaged to listen and adapt to local cultures. All of this lead us to go where no-one else has gone before (e.g., being a pioneer in online research only, back in 1997), to radically stop doing certain activities (e.g., killing our former panel sourcing business ‘XL Online Panels’), and to re-invent the way we do things whenever we see an opportunity for it (e.g., from organic growth only to pursuing a buy-and-build strategy). Via trial and error, we gradually came to the knowledge that long-term stability and fast-paced change should go hand in hand. Our company culture and long-term vision are stable foundations and necessary conditions for continuous change and evolution.

We drive the conditions for personal change through ‘ability’ as well as ‘opportunity’. Are people inherently open to change and do they get positive energy from it? Throughout our recruitment and selection process, we pay specific attention to the extent to which candidates show a sense of flexibility, being able to adjust quickly to new circumstances. For example, we might present a case about breastfeeding to young male candidates and see how they adjust to this context they are (possibly) less familiar with. But it is also about creating opportunities for people to get to know new roles, responsibilities and ways of working. We promote internal mobility and encourage people to explore different areas of the business or to migrate to other locations, getting to know a new business context and its accompanying challenges.

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