From Insights to Intelligence: The Next Decade of MROCs


By Bob Yazbeck, Vice President, Digital Methods, Gongos, Inc.

InsightstoIntelBorn from a brand advocacy platform, online research communities were a welcomed disruption in our industry. By 2004, they established themselves at the intersection of practitioner, platform and consumer in providing dynamic means to hear consumers, observe behavior and collect data. One decade later, communities have to become even more sophisticated, accounting for internal challenges and new streams of data. We believe they must disrupt again—moving teams beyond pure insight generation to better fuel intra-organizational intelligence.

But this will take a mindset shift on all of our parts. Insights professionals will need to place as much focus on the organizational relationship with the community as the consumer-vendor relationship. To achieve this, end-users must regard communities as a hub of intelligence, rather than an “address” to engage in meaningful chatter with their customers. Likewise, insights partners will be prompted to design more intuitive and interactive environments engineered to collect, consume, and curate knowledge within the platform itself. Proportionately, these hubs will have to be crafted to facilitate cumulative learning.

Intelligence communities—if we can call them that—stand to become a pivotal platform for future-thinking insights organizations. At their peak performance, they will catalyze cross-functional learning—and decisions large and small—throughout the entire organization.

In order to break the deeply engrained pattern of primary data collection and insight generation, we’ve identified four specific areas where communities stand to evolve:

1. A La Carte Learning To Real-Time Collaboration

Rather than moving from one fixed stage of questions and objectives, to another of answers and themed reports, community partners need to work in tandem to see stories unfold. Historically, suppliers and clients diverge onto two paths – suppliers head off to generate insights while clients develop discussions to shape the issues. A truly collaborative relationship will be far more iterative. All parties will be as equally able to absorb inbound knowledge as they fuel continued learning initiatives. Community platforms will be constructed to behave more like an intranet of knowledge – where real-time notes, comments, playbooks and next-moves will help facilitate graduated learning within the client organization and with their partners.

2. Feeding Organizational Intuition

For communities to remain relevant, there needs to be a clear and explicit linkage between the insights-fed story and the organization’s strategic planning. In a perfect world, this happens as a top-down approach – plans are developed, objectives are clearly stated, and work is initiated. Yet, many of us (yes, clients too) do not operate in a perfect world, so a bottom-up approach often prevails. Visualize a fluid network, with a hierarchy, nodes and paths – strategic plans are the framework, objectives and research activity are the nodes, and the story describes the path. It’s through a network where we more easily uncover connections that were previously difficult to detect. This network of knowledge needs to reach beyond the initial audience and live on in the organization—not only to provide inspiration, but serve as a blueprint when hypotheses arise and bottom-up approaches are in order.

3. An Open Ecosystem

Environments and systems are often strengthened through the introduction of outside influences. Yet, most MROCs today are based on private, invitation-only forums. The community environment has to evolve to incorporate qual, quant, social and new layers of system diagnostics – a free-flowing portal that incorporates relevant and meaningful real-world factors. There should also be an ability to fuse intelligence from outside the environment—from primary, secondary or enterprise research, social media measurements, and timely events— that affect the community alchemy. This membrane effect will promote the flow of information to break down static knowledge, corporate silos, and further infiltrate the organization.

4. Humanization of Insights

In a world of data clutter, humanizing members will become ever more important. With a foundation of engagement, trust, and anonymity—where “public privacy” is otherwise constantly challenged—intelligence communities will continue to give consumers a safe space to express themselves. Clients can engage with members face-to-face – through smart devices or PCs – in a scalable fashion. And since self-expression is becoming far more prevalent and accepted among social users, there is no more powerful proof than in personal cameos. They allow for more character-driven narratives in the quest for consumer intelligence, as well as the socialization of that knowledge throughout the organization.