By Cara Lousararian
After nearly a decade working on highly complex and strategic research projects, I’ve learned the one thing you can count on when dealing with massive amounts of data is Murphy’s Law—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. No matter how much planning we do (and we take planning very seriously), the nature of market research means there’s bound to be a hiccup or two along the way.
One of the best ways to deal with Murphy's Law is to accept that issues will arise but to make sure they don’t get in the way of the end goal—actionable insights. At CMB, our ability to seamlessly execute projects hinges on our capacity to adjust and course correct (when needed) to keep things on track. We put a lot of preparation and time in putting together solid project plans, focusing on business decisions, and conducting stakeholder interviews, but we also place a lot of emphasis on hiring and training strong problem solvers. We do this because we know that even the best laid out plans can still go awry, which is why it's important to manage problems proactively. For example, CMB firmly believes in conducting stakeholder interviews at the beginning of nearly all research engagements. This allows us to proactively re-shape/re-think the questionnaire design based on the information we’re hearing from the stakeholders. This helps prevent getting to the final presentation and delivering insights that are not relevant or useable for the key stakeholders.
Even the Patriots, as successful as they were this season and in the Super Bowl, run into problems and issues in each game that they play, regardless if they are playing the worst or best team in the league. If you read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column the day after the Super Bowl, you'll remember that he highlighted Bill Belichick's pre-Super Bowl game meeting with his staff. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, summarized the meeting and said that Bill's main message was this: "This game is no different than any other one. It’s a 60-minute football game, and whatever issues we have, let’s make sure we correct them, coach them, and fix them. That’s our job." During that meeting, McDaniels, wrote two notes on his game play clipboard, "adjust" and "correct problems and get them fixed." Going into the game with those mantras was a reminder for him that the game is dynamic, and even the best laid plans need to be adjusted throughout the course of play.
While we can’t rely on Tom Brady, our approach to research engagements is no different. We encounter complex challenges day in and day out, and as our clients' needs change, we continue to think creatively and provide new and better solutions. When working with CMB, you can feel confident that we're putting together a solid project approach while simultaneously planning for the problems that may lie ahead. We might not be the Patriots, but we’re champions at execution just the same.
Cara is a Senior Research Manager. She enjoys spending time with her husband and dog, and she is STILL reveling in the "high" from the Patriots Super Bowl win.
Are YOU a strong problem solver? Come join our team!
Originally posted on the South Street Strategy blog
By Andy Cole
Diversity in the workplace has proven massive benefits for organizations that rely on innovative thinking. Contrary to what most people believe, however, diversity in business is not just about surrounding yourself with people who look different. It’s also about equipping your team with a wide array of approaches to a common challenge.
You can imagine each of us having a diversity score – based on 3 dimensions – that fluctuates depending on the collective characteristics of the team. However, the score isn’t static: each of us can increase our individual and team diversity score at will. Let’s take a look at the three common dimensions of diversity to understand how we can do this:
- Inherent Diversity
Inherent diversity includes race, ethnic background, gender…hardwired traits that we are born with/into and cannot be controlled. For better or worse, these traits can influence the way we perceive the world around us, and vice versa.
A McKinsey study shows the difference inherent diversity can make, finding that executive boards in the US with inherently diverse members enjoy a 95% higher return on equity than those without. Impressive! On the flipside, what is an example of the drawback to sameness? Ask Bertelsmann, whose all-male team turned down Bethenny Frankel’s pitch to launch a low-cal alcoholic beverage for women. They simply could not relate to the target market, and the unseized opportunity gave rise to Skinnygirl, the fastest growing spirit brand in history.
- Acquired Diversity
This dimension involves the ingrained experiences we collect throughout our lives that train us how to think and behave, such as educational background, professional expertise, and even experience abroad.
An Art History class might allow you to understand the context surrounding important works and to fully appreciate the artist’s vision. Raising children helps you value an uninterrupted night’s sleep and wholeheartedly empathize with new parents in a way that others simply cannot. Though we cannot dictate all life events, we do have a great deal of control over the diversity we acquire over time.
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with leaders who exhibit 2-D diversity (that is, each leader possesses at least 3 inherent traits and 3 acquired traits) are 45% more likely to report growth.
While this is all wonderful, raising the level of inherent and acquired diversity at your organization (especially at the leadership level) is not something that is easily achieved. We believe a third dimension is needed; a dimension to help you raise your overall diversity score immediately with the human capital you already have: that third dimension is Inspired Diversity.
- Inspired Diversity
Through the development of our subject knowledge over time, mental models begin to take form and solidify in our minds. That’s natural, but these biases can also blind us to new opportunities and challenges. In order to increase our openness and mental agility, we must constantly identify opportunities to branch out from our immediate environment and learn how others might solve interesting challenges, focusing on how we might apply their insight to fit our purposes.
For example, touring a manufacturing facility can give fresh insight to the way we think about our internal processes and workflow. Interviewing an exceptional street performer could provide wisdom on courage and leadership. Perusing an exhibit at an art museum can help you reimagine your brand’s image through the artist’s lens.
When I run rapid innovation programs with clients, there is a clear trend among the super creative folks who consistently ideate at a higher level: They are renaissance people. They have many interests, are curious about many subjects, and partake in many activities that all contribute to having a wide array of perspectives. They have the unique ability to create using their past experience (acquired diversity) and also in-the-moment when they bring a specific business challenge to an outside activity (inspired diversity). They challenge themselves with new experiences and perspectives as often as possible.
When business requires innovation, pulling novel ideas out of thin air is simply not a realistic expectation; it’s about attacking a challenge from angles that have never been considered. And this level of thinking requires diverse individuals, with diverse minds, stimulated by diverse activities.
Andy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased commercialization success. Read South Street's Strategy Group's blog here.
Dear Dr. Jay,
We’ve been testing new concepts for years. The magic score to move forward in the new product development process is a 40% top 2 box score to purchase intent on a 5 point scale. How do I know if 40% is still a good benchmark? Are there any other measures that might be useful in predicting success?
I have some good news—you may have a big data mining challenge. Situations like yours are why I always ask our clients two questions: (1) what do you already know about this problem, and (2) what information do you have in-house that might shed some light on a solution? You say you’ve been testing concepts for years. Do you have a database of concepts already set up? If not, can you easily get access to your concept scores?
Look back on all of the concepts you have ever tested, and try to understand what makes for a successful idea. In addition to all the traditional concept test measures like purchase intent, believability, and uniqueness, you can also append marketing spend, distribution measures, and perhaps even social media trend data. You might even want to include economic condition information like the rate of inflation, the prime rate of interest, and the average DOW stock index. While many of these appended variables might be outside of your control, they may serve to help you understand what might happen if you launch a new product under various market conditions.
Take heart Norm, you are most definitely not alone. In fact, I recently attended a presentation on Big Data hosted by the Association of Management Consulting Firms. There, Steve Sashihara, CEO of Princeton Consultants, suggested there are four key stages for integrating big data into practice. The first stage is to monitor the market. At CMB, we typically rely on dashboards to show what is happening. The second stage is to analyze the data. Are you improving, getting worse, or just holding your own? However, only going this far with the data doesn’t really provide any insight into what to do. To take it to the next level, you need enter the third stage: building predictive models that forecast what might happen if you make changes to any of the factors that impact the results. The true value to your organization is really in the fourth stage of the process—recommending action. The tools that build models have become increasingly powerful in the past few years. The computing power now permits you to model millions of combinations to determine the optimal outcomes from all possible executions.
In my experience, there are usually many attributes that can be improved to optimize your key performance measure. In modeling, you’re looking for the attributes with the largest impact and the cost associated with implementing those changes to your offer. It’s possible that the second best improvement plan might only cost a small percentage of the best option. If you’re in the business of providing cellular device coverage, why build more towers if fixing your customer service would improve your retention almost as much?
Got a burning research question? You can send your questions to DearDrJay@cmbinfo.com or submit anonymously here.
Dr. Jay Weiner is CMB’s senior methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics. Jay earned his Ph.D. in Marketing/Research from the University of Texas at Arlington and regularly publishes and presents on topics, including conjoint, choice, and pricing.
By Jared Huizenga
I once again had the pleasure of attending the CASRO Digital Research Conference this year. It’s the one of the best conferences available to data collection geeks like me, and this year’s presentations did not disappoint. Here are a few key takeaways from this year’s conference.
1. The South shuts down when it snows. After having a great weekend in Nashville after the conference, my flight was cancelled on Monday due to about an inch of snow and a little ice. Needless to say, I was happy to return to Boston and its nine feet of snow.
2. “Big data” is an antiquated term. Over the past few years, big data has been the big buzz in the industry. Much like we said goodbye to traditional “market research,” we can now say adios to “big data.” Good riddance. The term was vague at best. However, that doesn’t mean that the concept is going away. It’s simply being replaced by new, more meaningful terminology like “integrated data” and “multi-sourced data.” But one thing isn’t changing. . .
3. Researchers still don’t know what to do with all that data. What can I say about multi-sourced data that I haven’t already said many times over the past couple years? Clients still want it, and researchers still want to oblige. But this fact remains: adequate tools still do not exist to deliver meaningful integrated data in most cases. We have a long way to go before most researchers will be able to leverage all of this data to its full potential in a meaningful way for our clients.
4. There’s a lot more to mobile research than how a questionnaire looks on a screen. For the past three or four years, it seems like every year is going to be “the year of mobile” at these types of conferences. Because of this, I always attend the mobile-related sessions skeptically. When we talk about mobile, more often than not, the main concern is how the questionnaire will look on a mobile device. But mobile research is much more than that. One of the best things I heard at the conference this year was that researchers should “follow the humans.” This is true on so many levels. Of course, a person can respond to a questionnaire invitation on his/her mobile device, but so much of a person’s daily life, including behaviors and attitudes, is shaped by mobile. Welcome to the world of the ultra-informed consumer. I can confidently say that 2015 is most definitely the year of mobile! (I do, however, reserve the right to say the same thing again next year.)
5. Researchers need to think like humans. It’s easy to get caught up in percentages in our world, and researchers sometimes lose sight of the human aspect of our industry. We like to think that millionaire CEOs are constantly checking their emails on their desktop computers, waiting for their next “opportunity” to take a 45-minute online questionnaire for a twenty-five cent reward. I attended sessions at the conference about gamification, how to make questionnaires more user-friendly, and also how to make questionnaires more kid-friendly by adding voice-to-text and text-to-voice options. All of these things have the potential to ease the burden on research participants, and as an industry, this must happen. We have a long way to go, but. . .
6. Now is the time to play catch-up with the rest of the world. Last year, I ended my recap by saying that change is happening faster than ever. I still think that’s true about the world we live in. With all of the technological advances and new opportunities provided to us, it’s an exciting time to be alive. However, I’m not sure I can honestly say that change is happening faster than ever when it comes to the world of research. I’ve been a part of this industry for a very fulfilling seventeen years, and sometimes my pride in the industry clouds my thinking. Let’s face the facts. The truth is that, as an industry, we are lagging far behind as the world speeds by. Research techniques and tools are evolving at a very slow pace, and I don’t see this changing in the near future. (In our defense, this is true for many industries and not only market research.) I still believe that those of us who are working to leverage the changing world we live in will be much better equipped for success than those who sit idly and watch the world fly.
I’m still confident that my industry is primed and ready for significant and meaningful change—even if we sometimes take the path of a tortoise. As a weekend pitmaster, I know that low and slow is sometimes the best approach. The end result is what really counts.
Jared is CMB’s Field Services Director, and has been in market research industry for seventeen years. When he isn’t enjoying the exciting world of data collection, he can be found competing at barbecue contests as the pitmaster of the cooking team Insane Swine BBQ.
By Jen Golden and Ashley Harrington
Last week, we spent a few days networking with and learning from some of the industry’s best and brightest at The Quirk's Event. At the end of the day, a few key ideas stuck out to us, and we wanted to share them with you.
1. Insights need to be actionable: This point may seem obvious, but multiple presenters at the conference hammered in on this point. Corporate researchers are shifting from a primarily separate entity to a more consultative role within the organization, so they need to deliver insights that best answer business decisions (vs. passing along a 200 slide data-dump). This mindset should flow through the entire lifespan of a project—starting at the beginning by crafting a questionnaire that truly speaks to the business decisions that need to be made (and cuts out all the fluff that may be “nice to have” but is not actionable) all the way to thoughtful analysis and reporting. Taking this approach will help ensure final deliverables aren’t left collecting dust and are instead used to lead engagement across the organization.
2. Allocate time and resources to socializing these insights throughout the organization: All too often, insightful findings are left sitting on a shelf when they have potential to be useful across an organization. Several presenters shared creative approaches to socializing the data so that it lives long after the project ended. From transforming a conference room with life-size cut-outs of key customer segments to creating an app employees can use to access data points quickly and on-the-go, researchers and their partners are getting creative within how they share the findings. The most effective researchers think about research results as a product to be marketed to their stakeholders.
3. Leverage customer data to help validate primary research: Most organizations have a plethora of data to work with, ranging from internal customer databases to secondary sources to primary research. These various sources can be leveraged to paint a full picture of the consumer (and help to validate findings). Etsy (a peer-to-peer e-commerce site) talked about comparing data collected from its customer database to its own primary research to see if what buyers and sellers said they did on the site aligned with what they actually did. For Etsy, past self-reported behaviors (e.g., number of purchases, number of times someone “favorites” a shop, etc.) aligned strongly with its internal database, but future behavior (e.g., likelihood to buy from Etsy in the future) did not. Future behaviors might not be something we can easily predict by asking directly in a survey, but that data could be helpful as another way to identify customer loyalty or advocacy. A note of caution: if you plan on doing this data comparison, make sure the wording in your questionnaire aligns with what you plan on matching in your existing database. This ensures you’re getting an apples to apples comparison.
4. Be cautious when comparing cross-country data: A multi-country study is typically going to ask for a “global overview” or cross-country comparison, but this can lead to inaccurate recommendations. Most are aware of cultural biases such as extreme response (e.g., Brazilian respondents often rate higher on rating scales while Japanese respondents tend to rate lower) or acquiescence (e.g., China often has the propensity to want to please the interviewer), and these biases should be kept in the back of your mind when delving into the final data. Comparing scaled data directly between countries with very different rating tendencies could lead to to falsely thinking one country is underperforming. A better indication of performance would be to provide an in-country comparison to competitors or looking at in-country trending data.
5. Remember your results are only as useful as your design is solid: A large number of stakeholders invested in a study’s outcome can lead to a project designed by committee since each stakeholder will inevitably have different needs, perspectives, and even vocabularies. A presenter shared an example from a study that asked recent mothers, “How long was your baby in the hospital?” Some respondents thought the question referred to the baby’s length, so they answered in inches. Others thought the question referred to the baby’s duration in the hospital, so they answered in days. Therein lies the problem. Throughout the process, it’s our job to ensure that all of the feedback and input from multiple stakeholders adheres to the fundamentals of good questionnaire design: clarity, answerable, ease, and lack of bias.
Have you been to any great conferences lately and have insights to share? Tell us in the comments!
Jen is a Project Manager on the Tech practice who always has the intention to make a purchase on Etsy but never actually pulls the trigger.
Ashley is a Project Manager on the FIH/RTE practice who has pulled the trigger on several Etsy items (as evidenced in multiple “vintage” tchotchkes and half-complete craft projects around her home).
By Laurie McCarthy
An old friend recently remarked how crazy it is that I’ve been at the same company for over 16 years (and I’m not even that old!). I hadn’t really thought it was a big deal, but among my peers, I’m an outlier. A recent article claims Millennials are putting a “time-limit” on their time at a company—91% expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Kids these days!
Of course, economic, cultural, and social reasons all play into the shift away from long-term employee tenure. But when I think about why I’ve stayed at CMB, I keep coming back to the role loyalty plays. If employers want to keep and grow their most valued employees in an increasingly competitive job market, they need to take a lesson from the brand loyalty playbook. Here are 5 principles worth developing:
If you want your smart, curious, and driven employees to stay, you need to offer opportunities to keep their skills fresh and relevant. When I was interviewing at CMB out of grad school, I was excited that analysts were exposed to all aspects of project work (sampling, questionnaire design, data collection, reporting, and analysis). Over the years, we’ve also developed the CMB University (CMBU) program, which includes weekly seminars on the latest techniques, case studies, and innovations. All this emphasis on staying competitive means I’m never bored and my skillset is constantly refreshed.
It doesn’t matter whether your company is a small firm, a global giant, or somewhere in between—employees who are proud of their work and their culture are going to stick around. Just this past year, CMB was named to the AMA Gold Top 50 US Market Research Organizations and the 2014 Top 100 Women-Led Business in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe. I take pride in knowing my contributions to the company (small and large) helped win these awards. Bottom line: as an organization grows, so does the degree to which an employee can thrive.
Word of mouth is an essential component to hiring and sustaining a good employee base, as well as for promoting a brand. When employees feel valued by an organization, they’re going to tell family and friends. The key is to leverage that advocacy to work in favor of the organization. At CMB, there is a referral program. Our employees are the face of our company, and our referral program encourages employees to reach out to peers as potential candidates and talk about their positive experiences at CMB.
79% of Millennials say it’s more important to genuinely enjoy their job than to make a lot of money. They want to love what they are doing and not just see it as work. I am a data dork and proud of it. Syntax, formulas, advanced design, efficiencies gained when brainstorming with colleagues—love ‘em all! My passion is digging into the data, wrapping my head around a problem, and troubleshooting . . . all of which come with my role as a data manager.
But during my time at CMB, it’s not just the work I’ve enjoyed, it’s the sense of community. There’s a camaraderie in our work environment—we work hard together, and then we play together. Throughout my years here, I’ve been privileged to form friendships in addition to great working relationships.
Loyalty is definitely a two-way street—when an organization believes in you, it really inspires you to believe in the organization. As an employee, you have confidence that the company will do right by you and that you will earn both hard benefits (401K, health insurance, vacation, etc.) and soft benefits (flexibility of hours, virtual commuting, working from home when you are sick, etc.). Having a 401(k) is important, but retirement plans are offered at most companies in some form or another. Here’s what really makes me happy: not missing my child’s first grade holiday concert, and CMB makes sure I won’t.
So after almost two decades at the same organization, maybe I am an exception . . . but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Laurie McCarthy is a Senior Data Manager, and she has been with CMB for over 16 years. She’s had 9 desks, sat on 4 floors, had 2 kids, and has gotten married once.
Want to join our team? Check out our current openings.
By Tara Lasker
Maybe you’ve seen the news? This winter, Boston ushered in a new ice age. I’m joking (sort of), but you’ll forgive me since we have had six, SIX consecutive snowstorms, dropping over 90 inches of snow on the region. Commuting has become a game of strategy, and shoveling and “roof raking” have overtaken hockey as the city’s top winter sport. You know it’s bad when The New York Times’ editorial board tries to lift their city’s spirits by reminding New Yorkers that at least they don’t live in Boston. Ouch!
Of course these storms have been no laughing matter for area businesses and employees, and customer loyalty is critical for surviving these stressors. So what can companies do to leverage loyalty when their customers are buried under 7+ feet of snow?
- Make me love you so much I’ll go out of my way to get to you. Loving a brand can help a customer look past inconvenience. For example, I have been using a service to help me decorate my house. The appointment when we were going to make some final decisions just happened to fall during one of the many snowstorms. I should have rescheduled—it was snowing and the roads were awful. But I was so excited that I just couldn’t wait, and I drove through the snow to make the appointment. Are your customers willing to drive through a raging storm to get to you? That’s an example of the true love and loyalty we strive for.
- Build a strong foundation of trust and confidence. Between commuting nightmares, school closings, and travel bans, much of our work was being done outside of normal business hours. When I explained our situation to clients and coworkers, they understood. Communication and transparency are critical—be honest and upfront, and your loyal customers will respond. But. . .
- Even the most loyal customers have a breaking point. A few weeks ago, my husband and I had highly anticipated dinner plans, but we ended up not going because we knew we wouldn't have the patience to handle the parking challenges. We weren’t alone, and because of this, restaurants in particular have suffered. Businesses can use this time to find other avenues to connect with customers, e.g., doing competitive research or communicating to your (snowbound and captive) customers via social media, getting them excited about when they can come and see you next.
- Alternative online experiences are critical. Even though I couldn’t get out, I still needed things to do, and the snowpocalypse gave me the opportunity to beef up my online purchases and explore new websites. This is just one reason (of many) it’s important for businesses to have a functional and enjoyable online and mobile experience for customers who can’t get to you.
- One man gathers (shovels?) what another man spills. Customer loyalty is truly tested during times like these. Our public transit system has been having major problems. It’s been over a week since our last snowstorm, but our service is nowhere near back to normal. My colleague, who just couldn’t take it anymore, called an Uber and paid $50 for a 3 mile ride to work. It is unlikely the MBTA will lose customers over its spotty service, but will Uber or Lyft gain new and loyal customers as a direct result from the MBTA’s limited service? It’s surely possible.
The fact is, we can’t control the weather, and we can’t control every touch-point in the customer experience. But we can make sure we’re prepared by building a strong base of loyalty that can see through stormy weather and won’t melt come spring.
Tara Lasker is a Research Director at CMB who is a survivor of 7 school snow days in 3 weeks, limited bus/train service, and severe cabin fever. She is looking forward to a family ski trip to North Conway, NH where she'll actually be able to enjoy the snow.
By Blair Bailey
Sitting in my cozy Boston office, sipping coffee, I’m suddenly transported to Washington State’s Cascade Mountain Range, soaring above the mile-high Cowboy Mountain and scanning Tunnel Creek, a popular, snow-powdered trail and the site of the tragic 2012 Stevens Pass avalanche.
This is the genius of the graphics that accompany “Snow Fall: The Avalanche in Tunnel Creek,” a story that debuted in 2012 on The New York Times’ online edition. Although the rushing show and biting winds are only graphics embedded within the article, they are so well done you feel like you are there. In recent years, The New York Times, a stalwart of traditional print news, has dominated digital storytelling, integrating stunning and sometimes interactive graphics within its pages.
As beautiful as these features are (and they are still stunning 3 years later), where does this interactive, visual storytelling fit within our 140-character, 6-second-film, top-8 lives? (Forgive the MySpace reference, but nothing conveys digital restrictions more than fitting your most prized friendships into a 2 x 4 grid.)
Snapchat, an app notorious for its not-so-lasting impressions, recently released Discover, allowing traditional media companies to feature public content, like trailers and current events, within the app. The media outlets range from Cosmopolitan to National Geographic and tease users with graphics and sound bites as well as the traditional flashy headlines. After hitting the purple dot in the upper right corner, users are presented with an array of publications to choose from. Once a publication is selected, users can swipe left and right to move through stories, swipe up to read more, or swipe down to exit the publication and return to the Discover menu.
By now, most publications have a mobile presence of some type. So, why is Snapchat’s most recent move something we should care about? Although it’s not an entirely novel idea, Snapchat’s new feature adds several unique twists to digital storytelling.
- In keeping with Snapchat’s ephemerality, Discover’s content is only available for twenty-four hours. While the content can be viewed as many times as desired during that period, the news outlet invites users to come back tomorrow for new stories.
- Unlike Facebook and Twitter, both of which typically lead the user away from the platform, all Discover content—articles, videos, photo sets, trailers, music videos, etc.—is contained within the app.
- Snapchat also serves a very different demographic than most social media sites. Discover is targeted to Millennials, but, as of July 2014, over 50% of Snapchat users are between 13-17 years old and over 80% are under 24 years old. Many of the publications on Discover may be taking an initial risk straying so far from their key audiences .
- Discover is also a fresh idea to existing Snapchat users. Unlike Twitter, where incoming brands have to adhere to the existing 140-character boundaries, Discover breaks the Snapchat mold without straying too far from its original purpose. The format is different enough to interest users and keep them coming back, but still familiar enough that users recognize the Snapchat interface.
While the selection of publications could be tweaked further, Discover shows that Snapchat knows its users. Short, (mostly) teenage attention spans still get their familiar bite-size content but in a format that’s new enough to hold their attention. Discover also holds the potential to keep Millennials coming back for more than momentary embarrassing videos and wacky photos. It adds value to an app that has seen a lot more selfies than the average person could probably handle.
With over 1.2 billion websites cluttering our networks, storytelling has become increasingly important to stand out among the dot nets and dot coms. And it’s not just apps and news sites. In data heavy fields like market research, it can be easy to let storytelling take a backseat. That’s why we’re investing more time and resources into creating dynamic storytelling through infographics, video, and mobile. This engaging, inspiring, and motivating content brings results to life and helps us strengthen the relationship between our clients and their audiences. . .and best of all, we do it without all those selfies.
Blair Bailey is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a recent M.S. graduate from Boston University. When she isn’t working with data or being held captive by the commuter rail, you can find her carefully flooding her social media feeds with pictures of dogs.
Originally posted on the South Street Strategy blog
By Andy Cole
In an effort to counter the fear-based culture that inhibits innovation at many companies, some leaders (Google, Amazon, Roche) have advocated actually celebrating failure. Interesting! Could this new mindset really be the key to building an internal culture of fearless innovators?
Clearly, we want to create a safe environment for employees to admit faults, share lessons learned, and have the courage to attempt things that have never been done, all without the fear of reputational – or even career – consequences. But do we really want employees to idolize those who don’t accomplish what they set out to do? Although provocative, a broad policy like “celebrate failure” can be misleading and create unintended problems.
What companies should be celebrating is the learning derived from failure, not failure itself. To illustrate the difference, putting the focus on failure raises post-mortem questions like “Now that we’ve failed, what worked well?”, “what did we learn from this?”, “how might we do better?” This retroactive approach is better than nothing, but it’s in no way sufficient.
When the goal shifts to maximize learning, it invites key questions at the beginning of the process, like “what might we learn from this activity?”, “what key assumptions could we test?”, and “how might we modify the idea so that we learn even more?” As you can see, this proactive approach can guide and influence activities from early stages in a direction that prevents future failure (or at least the sheer quantity and size of failures before realizing success).
Used in combination with a project debrief, this tactic can be used as part of a powerful learning strategy, ensuring that you get the very most of your innovation activities, independent of failure or success. And that’s certainly worth celebrating.
How do these issues show up in your organization? Does your company embrace failure or learning? Do you conduct structured “after action” analyses of major initiatives to facilitate learning? We’d be pleased if you would share your ideas, stories, rants, insights, and responses in the comments below.
Andy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased commercialization success. Read South Street's Strategy Group's blog here.
Originally posted on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce blog
By Caitlin Dailey
In January 2014, my colleagues from Chadwick Martin Bailey and I attended the Greater Boston Chamber’s Annual Pinnacle Awards. I was so inspired by the stories of success from the honorees and felt so proud that the president and CEO of my company, Anne Bailey Berman, had herself been a recipient of a Pinnacle Award back in 2007. While I went there to support the women in our community and hear about their journeys toward achieving their goals, I left with a new personal goal I was committed to working towards.
You see, during the ceremony, a group of women were asked to stand up as the room applauded them. These women were members of the Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Program—women who were selected from a large pool of applicants who were given the chance to attend seminars, workshops, and networking events to grow their leadership skills. I wanted to be part of that group.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago – when I achieved that goal, sitting among the new Women’s Leadership class being recognized at the 2015 Pinnacle Awards. And once again, it was an incredibly inspiring event.
Using my experiences from the program, I examined the honorees’ speeches through a new lens. I listened to identify how the skills and tenets I had learned myself helped this amazing group of honorees achieve their success. Four great insights left a lasting mark in particular:
1). Embrace every opportunity that’s presented and don’t shy away from something that’s outside of your comfort zone. When Emily Rooney, Host and Executive Editor of Beat the Press, was interested in creating Beat the Press, she learned that Arianna Huffington wanted to pitch something similar with the same name. Emily wasn’t afraid to take a risk when the odds may have been against her, and she came out the victor.
2). It’s ok to be emotional and passionate. Deb Re, CEO of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, said it best: “If something doesn’t make you emotional and passionate then it probably isn’t worth your time.” As women, showing emotion does not make us weak. We’re likely to produce better work when we care about what it is we are doing.
3). Having a good support system is just as important as having a good idea. All of the honorees had family and friends in the audience who helped them get to where they are today. I loved hearing the loud cheers from sections of colleagues who play a role in the honorees’ every day successes – and in turn, the honorees acknowledging the importance of these partnerships in their speeches.
4). Pay it forward. Many of the honorees were also members of volunteer committees. As we move up in the working world, it’s easy to succumb to the pressures of the job, but also important to make time to give back. This was illustrated best by honoree Cindy Laba, Founder and Head of School at Beacon Academy, when she made every person in the audience take out his/her cell phone and say hello to someone who means a lot to them.
I was so inspired by these amazing stories of success and look forward to attending the Pinnacle Awards in the years to come.
The Chamber has created so many opportunities for women in the Boston business community and continues to serve as a support system by helping women in our community achieve their goals. It’s an honor to be part of that.
Caitlin Dailey is a Project Manager for Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). CMB is a Boston-based Gold Top 50 market research and consulting firm, partnering with a select group of the world’s leading brands to deliver critical insights for confident, strategic decision-making.