5 Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than You Think


By Greg Heist, Chief Innovation Officer, Gongos, Inc.

Business Insider kicked off 2013 with a piece entitled “13 Things That Went Obsolete in 2012.” Among them were some notable standbys of days gone by, including hard drives, buying individual songs or albums, standalone GPS units, non-smartphone cameras and even the venerable alarm clock.  All of these examples represent the rapidly escalating phenomenon of creative destruction.

If you’re not familiar with the term, creative destruction is an economic concept articulated by Joseph Schupeter in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.  He wrote:

“Capitalism…by nature[…]never can be stationary. The opening up of new markets […] illustrates the same process of industrial mutation […] that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

image from www.ritholtz.com

As technological progress occurs at an increasingly rapid rate, we’re seeing creative destruction happen with alarming regularity.  We live in the post-Blockbuster era. The post-landline era.  The post-Postal era. And the list continues. As I began to apply this concept to the MR industry, I arrived at conclusions that, for some, may seem utterly ridiculous.

As someone who believes that embracing the ridiculous (to borrow a thought from Albert Camus) is an important element in innovation, I’d like to submit to you my 5 sacred cows in MR that will become obsolete quicker than you and I can imagine.

1. In-Person Focus Groups

While qualitative research is undeniable in its power and immediacy, the traditional in-person focus group, conducted in a sterile boardroom environment, is an endangered species.  Although we try to spruce it up with Koosh balls and other lighthearted techniques, it’s increasingly difficult to entice consumers to come to a focus group facility and sit around a table for two hours. Traditional focus group rooms limit creativity on a psychological level, and it’s becoming clear that its value proposition works for a narrowing range of research problems.

In short, the traditional in-person focus group is on life support and ripe for creative destruction.

What will replace it?  In the near future, we will see the continued blossoming of non-traditional focus group environments to make focus groups feel like friends chatting at a bar. Definitely more enjoyable for respondents and more conducive for creative exchanges of ideas.

Longer term, we’ll see explosive growth in online virtual focus groups conducted primarily from mobile devices.  As collaboration technologies evolve, online focus groups will become the de facto standard. The blossoming of 4G LTE (and beyond) technologies will allow researchers to engage effortlessly with consumers located anywhere.

2. PowerPoint Reports

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is by far the dominant medium for delivering research results.  However, just because it is the standard doesn’t mean it is an efficient or effective platform for its stated purpose. It forces a linear and static frame on information that deserves an engaging, interactive, and multidimensional experience.

As a result, it’s only a matter of time before PowerPoint falls victim to a disruptive technology that will drive users to actively explore, imagine and intuitively grasp the meaning of multiple streams of research simultaneously.  This technology will free insights within the entire enterprise, unlocking them from the linear and siloed world of share drives and search functions.  I, for one, will be thrilled to see that day!

3. Online Surveys

Though a heretical thought today, the traditional online survey is a dead man walking.  In our brave new mobile culture, the idea that a 30+ minute PC-based survey is going to be viable even three years from now is an increasingly absurd belief.  We (agencies and clients) need to shake ourselves awake and realize we’re living on borrowed time when it comes to this increasingly anachronistic mindset.

What’s the future?  Micro-surveys.  Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback. Indirect measurement. Facial sentiment recognition. Mobile neurofeedback. That’s the future.

 4. The Quant / Qual Duality

Today, research is split into two methodological spheres: quant and qual. We think of research as being either one or the other.  We think of qual phases preceding quant phases. All sequential. All nicely compartmentalized.  A mindset driven by current methodological limitations and the intellectual constructs underpinning what we think of as research.

In an era of time compression and rapidly evolving technologies, this duality will ultimately fade away. Quant or qual will be replaced by quant and qual.  The worlds will collide. Both will occur simultaneously. Qual methods will be interwoven with quant methods and vice versa.  The result will be research that is deeper, faster and more insightful than today.

5. The Rational Frame

Underpinning the scientific method (and hence social and market research) is the utter dominance of the “rational frame,” the belief that humans react in purely rational ways.  Disagree with me?  Just take a look at any survey and the innumerable attributes respondents are forced to rate on a five-point rating scale to explain what drives their behavior.

We all know intuitively that this isn’t the way humans operate.  Yet we cling to this structure because it helps us feel more confident and in sync with the other social sciences in our approach.

That’s all changing, and the explosion of interest in behavioral economics is evidence that the purely rational frame is ripe for creative disruption. At this point, behavioral economics still lacks breadth of methodological applications, especially on the quant side of the equation. (But I’d like to credit my colleague Michael Alioto, whose passion about identifying behavioral economics principles applicable to the MR industry inspired my thinking on this subject.) However, I think it signals the beginning of a whole new era, one that will allow research to more fully explain and predict the behavior of human beings in all of their wonderful complexity.

So this is my list for the market research “eight-tracks” of the future. And while you might agree with me on this, you may think it won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.  My bet is we’ll be shocked at how quickly this will go down.

Why do I believe this? One of my favorite reads over the past couple of years has been Ray Kurzweil’s seminal work The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.  Regardless of whether you think Kurzweil’s vision is revolutionary or pure bunk, he offers a possible explanation for our inability to keep up. He contends that Moore’s Law (which posits that computational power doubles every two years) places technology and our civilization on an exponential curve. Additionally, he points to the fact that we are approaching the nearly vertical portion of that curve.

As a result, because we have a hard time factoring that nearly vertical trajectory into our thought process, we find ourselves constantly being surprised by how quickly the bedrocks and foundations of our culture become obsolete. And according to Kurzweil, we need to buckle our seat belts because the wild ride is just getting started.

As published inGreenBook Blog.