Author: Michael Dorr, Sr. Vice President

Spring was in the air in London last week (in very stark contrast to the stormy/winter weather we’ve had in Toronto) and that feeling of rebirth and optimism was very present at the Market Research Society’s annual conference: Impact 2017.

The conference’s provocative tagline Are you Future Fit? asks an important question for market research professionals, our clients, and consumers in general.  The topic of future proofing is especially topical, given our industry’s poor track record in 2016 at predicting outcomes.

Some constructive solutions for more accurate foresight were presented…

  • Continuous / agile research: avoid the 1-time “testing” mentality
  • Prototyping of ideas helps take a concept to a possible reality
  • Foresight is not always a consumer-led process (i.e. secondary research, experts and trends may be the right way to lead your future proofing initiative)

More broadly speaking, one topic at MRS Impact this year really inspired me: Gender Equality. And how better to demonstrate this than have half of all this year’s conference speakers be women (kudos MRS!).  The topic of inclusivity was woven throughout the conference and I wanted to share with you some of my observations…

Jane Frost, MRS’s Chief Executive spoke to diversity in the research industry.  For research agencies, female representation in senior management (Director-level or higher) is around 49%; which is quite solid (though our industry is nearly 60% female, so there’s more room to grow and improve).  This statistic is lower on the client-side, at ~45%, and markedly lower in other industries, like Technology.  And given the reported disparity in salary between men and women, Jane summed it up quite effectively as not good enough.  Check out her opening speech here.

This topic is especially relevant for us researchers as it highlights how powerful biases (often unconscious) can influence behaviour.  The conference’s opening keynote speaker, Nicola Mendelsohn (Vice President EMEA, Facebook) reminded us all that being free of biases is not the goal, but rather understanding your own biases is key.  Nicola also reminded us that you can’t fix what you can’t measure – which is very true – and I am thrilled to see that the MRS is taking a proactive stand and tracking our industry’s progress.

At the close of Day #1, we were lucky to hear Caitlyn Moran (Author / Journalist / Social Commentator) and her perspectives on writing, feminism, politics (and more).  Caitlyn has a gift for identifying human truths and then summarizing insights in a way that is punchy, memorable, and often hilarious.  I also love that she quoted Roxette, Don’t bore us, get to the chorus (my new personal mantra).

An inspiring example of research in action (addressing gender disparity) was Accenture’s work on Cracking the Gender Code – a comprehensive research study aimed at understanding and addressing why girls are not pursuing careers in technology.  Their study identifies both motivators and barriers (most of which are social in nature); and by mapping this over time (see right), they were able to create a road map for making real progress. Click Here for more.

This year’s MRS Impact Conference has been truly thought-provoking.  Many of the speakers gave compelling examples of positive behaviour change: from programs designed to prevent suicide, to empowering youth, reducing distracted driving, and increasing recycling among millennials.  There were so many great examples of how our industry can affect change through greater insight.  I left the conference feeling motivated and optimistic for the year ahead.  See you next year MRS!


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