Innovative research methods - what does that mean in Asia?

Innovative research methods - what does that mean in Asia?

As the year is coming to a close, and as I take stock of projects I’ve worked on and proposals that we should have won, this is a question that I’m increasingly thinking about, and am seeking a perspective on.

This is certainly not a new subject, and as an industry, we have peers who have already proven themselves to be ‘innovative’, at least according to the survey results of this particular report from Green Book (GRIT 2017).

I’m not here to dispute the findings or question the rankings, but as an experienced qualitative researcher, it is second nature to me to want to understand the meaning of such labels as ‘innovative’ and to contextualize it within the specific region that I work in

The greater importance cannot be stressed enough: as an organization, Kadence seeks to raise the status of market research within the region, by delivering insights that inspire and impact businesses. With that as the key focus, 

it is then important to ask whether ‘Innovation’, however it is defined, is truly necessary in the first place.

In the spirit of ‘knowing what you know, and not knowing what you don’t’, it is thus time to fully explore the question, so we can consider how it then fits into the overall narrative of ‘insights that inspire and impact’, rather than for its own sake

To be precise, these are the questions that I’m seeking to answer, in order to truly make sense of the subject:

  1. Can we apply conventional definitions of ‘innovation’ (e.g. disruption, novel/new, creativity, etc.) common to other industries to our own, given that its narrative may/may not be directly applicable?
  2. Even if we can define ‘innovative research’, how does it need to be implemented?
  3. What kinds of ‘research innovation’ does Asia need that is the most relevant and pertinent to how the region is developing?
  4. Ultimately, who benefits more from ‘innovative research’, clients or agencies, and why?

This will be the first of a series of articles on the topic, as I explore its multifaceted nature. I’m hoping that through interacting with my colleagues, peers and clients, I’ll be that much closer to an answer.

Stay tuned for the next article, as I share my immediate findings on the explorations.

Recruitment - Using the Fantasy Football Method

Recruitment - Using the Fantasy Football Method

The 2017 / 2018 Premier League is well under way and is providing much competition amongst some keen football fans across the Kadence offices. We have a Kadence league and whilst not everyone is as competitive as me, keeping an eye out each week on how my fantasy football team is performing is a guilty pleasure of mine (at the time of writing I am sitting second in our work league – annoyingly the person who is leading sits just opposite me!).

Whilst trying to decide who to make Captain this week, I realized that there are many similarities between getting a strong fantasy football team and developing an HR / recruitment plan. As such I thought I would share some of my fantasy football tips – and how they relate to building our own teams in Singapore!

  •  Pick from a good mix of teams. Diversity is key. You don’t want too many people that play for the same team and so face the same challenges. Having a diverse mix of backgrounds means that you are able to see problems from different perspectives.
  • Mix of skill sets. In FF, I like to spread my focus on both defenders and forwards – and it’s the same for our team. People with different skills allows you to have solid expertise across the team. It does not matter if someone is not yet client facing, if they are good at what they do, they are an asset.
  • Flexibility. I regularly change my formation in FF – and having a flexible team is a great HR policy too. It means you can flex resources up and down and move people to help with different tasks. Needs of clients change weekly, so having a team that is able to change with them is a great asset.
  • Forward planning. One feature of the FF game is ‘boosts’ that allow you to get extra points (e.g. triple points for your captain for 1 week). Forward planning is key in hiring too – knowing when you need an extra resource in the future or when to focus on a certain skill set is vital to stay ahead of client requirements.
  • Getting your spend right. Much like FF, you can only spend so much on your team. You need superstars, but you cant afford a whole team full of perfect experience. A good HR policy gets the right mix of youth and new ideas into a core of superstars.
  • Transfers at the right time. I like to keep an eye on my FF team and make substituions when they are no longer contributing. An HR policy should be the same. Allowing people to leave the company when you (or they) do not feel as though they are contributing effectively any more is an important part of building the best team.
Perhaps most importantly of all I have learned that much like my FF team, the HR policy needs weekly attention. If you ignore it for a few weeks – you realise too late that you have missed opportunities.

Despite a slightly flippant link to FF, getting the right team in place is vital for any company. However, being aware that your teams will need to change over time is key. Planning for what happens next and what ‘games’ we will be playing in the future is a hugely important task, that is always relevant. All I need to do know is hope I captain the right player this weekend so I can claim top spot of our fantasy league!

Three benefits of Post-Its to harness non-linear thinking

Three benefits of Post-Its to harness non-linear thinking

There’s a great book by Columbia Business School associate professor, William Duggan, called Strategic Intuition. The book posits that intuition is ‘the selective recombination of previous elements into a new whole.’

One of Duggan’s examples of intuitive thinkers is one of Napoleon’s early campaigns. When ordered to re-take the port of Toulon from the British invaders via frontal assault ‘with the sword and bayonet’, Napoleon suggests an alternative strategy; to take the smaller fort of L’Agiuilelette, which overlooks the port of Toulon. Against the received wisdom of his peers and commanders, Napoleon goes ahead with his plan, takes the fort, and in doing so terrifies the British into leaving Toulon and sets his path for Emperor of Europe.

What’s interesting here – and why Duggan raises this example from history – is how Napoleon came to his plan, by bringing together abstract parts of his memory and experience: his reading of the contour maps on the area of Toulon; his knowledge of how best to deploy light cannon and his understanding of past British defeats. The contour maps showed him that the fort of L’Aiguilette occupied high ground over Toulon; from his light cannon experience he knew he could take the cannon up to the fort and deploy them overlooking Toulon and the British fleet; and his understanding of past British defeats at Yorktown and the Siege of Boston taught him that the British would never again risk being cut off from their navy.

None of those thoughts – contour maps; light cannon; British defeats – were taught to Napoleon together. Instead, as Duggan argues, it is the ‘selective recombination of previous elements into a whole.’

Have you ever had an idea flash into your mind? A random thought disconnected from what you’re trying to concentrate on – that’s strategic intuition. And its proof that our brains are non-linear. Try as we might, we struggle to focus on a single thought for a long period of time. Rather our brains are adept at working in our subconscious and delivering fresh ideas and insights at a moment’s notice.

You can’t help but think of multiple things at once, or just as likely thinking multiple things about one idea at once. In contrast, however, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, by their very nature, are linear. Word splits information over different pages, PowerPoint chunks information in slides and Excel breaks then across tabs. And all are subject to the limitations of screen size. This linear function is in direct odds to the brain’s non-linear thinking, forcing you to work to their restrictions.

By chunking information into different pages, slides or tabs it also forces the brain to change its functioning.  When all the information is displayed at once, the brain can focus on analysis and connecting information. We can tap into the very strength of our brain – making random, subconscious associations. However, when chunked over different pages, slides and tabs the brain must first remember all the information it has been exposed to before it can then begin to analyse and connect it. This exerts increased cognitive load on the brain and causes a significant break down in your brain’s ability to create those connections.

So, what if we moved away from linear formats and embraced our brain’s capacity for non-linear thinking, for sparks of insight. This is where the power of Post-It notes – or record cards, or just scraps of paper – come in. 

When first planning or thinking of an idea or concept, a good idea is to plot your thoughts on Post-It notes. Each one holding one thought. And filling your table, or wall, or desk with them. The beauty of this is that it embraces our non-linear brain. A random thought or idea can be jotted down and placed to the side, not distracting your attention by needling your mind but also addressed and captured quickly during it’s fleeting appearance. Overall, Post-It planning seems to help in three main ways:

Making connections

Post-It notes and record cards allow for the creation of non-linear narratives. With the use of Post-It notes, or record cards and a box of pins, you can map out an entire concept visually, highlighting interconnecting thoughts and relationships - celebrating the very non-linear thinking our brains champion and computers cannot copy. As an individual activity working with Post-Its allows us to re-arrange ideas as we go. Once we have captured all our thinking on multiple Post-Its we can then begin to rearrange them over and over again, in different orders and ways until we are happy with our outcome.

A free-form structure

By filling a wall with Post-It notes we are avoiding a linear path through the information, rather we are creating a free-form structure. Every time you look at the wall, or return to the room, you can look at the Post-It notes in a different order. And perhaps draw out new meaning or sense from it. It also means you’re not enforcing a structure on others, they too can create their own path through the information – a very effective element when developing ideas and concepts with others.

Fostering collaboration

When working together, cards and post-it notes invite displayed thinking. By committing our thoughts to paper and then arranging them on a wall we can easily invite others to see our thinking; but just as easily others can begin to add to, edit or rationalize our thoughts, so that together we can create a shared cognition about an idea and together create a common understanding. This shared activity fosters creativity, especially as any person can re-arrange cards.

So, before you next fire up your laptop ask yourself, would I be more creative if I used Post-Its and embraced my brain’s non-linear thinking?

 

 

 

 

 Counter curbed enthusiasm at work

Counter curbed enthusiasm at work

According to a survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam, US office workers are bored at work about 10.5 hours every week. And while some are more likely to experience boredom during specific times in the year, 45% experience this all year long. 



The top reported reasons for boredom are:

  • They don’t feel challenged by the assignments
  • There isn’t enough work to do
  • The nature of the work isn’t interesting


Though we don’t have the magic formula to completely eliminate workplace boredom, at Kadence we have implemented a program with the aim to curb monotony as much as possible. We call them Project Points. 

Project Points is a list of extracurricular tasks and projects that individuals can get involved in if they have time or would like to get exposure to another area of the business. So, what’s so great about Project Points?

1. They are aimed at helping us to achieve our business goals. Project Points are tasks that are specifically aimed at helping Kadence to achieve financial or strategic goals. They include tasks like: creating thought leadership pieces to use for sales & marketing collateral, updating supplier database information, or creating essential templates that can be used to make everyone’s job faster. While some are certainly more glamorous than others, all are worth spending time on, and so the business benefits no matter what people choose.

2. They touch on every aspect of the business. Every division from Sales to Marketing to Operations to HR are covered in Project Points. This means that individuals have the opportunity to try out areas of the business that they had never experienced before, without requiring a formal role change or redesign. 

3. They are rewarding. Each completed task earns the entire team points, which in turn qualifies everyone to receive a reward. This year, we set an ambitious goal, which when reached earned the entire office an additional day off. Needless to say, many Project Points had to be completed to achieve that!

Not every Project Point will be challenging, interesting or life-changing, but hopefully they give everyone opportunities for personal development and variety, and greater exposure to the needs of the business. And one thing is for sure: with Project Points available, no one can say that there isn’t enough work to do. :)

Blending analogue in a digital world

Blending analogue in a digital world

This seemed a good combination of digital and analogue. The paper and boards to organize our thoughts and rationale, the digital to provide more detail on the specifics when necessary.

You are reading this on a laptop, a smartphone and if you are super fancy maybe even via VR goggles (although I doubt it as I can’t imagine many people actually do that!). You have a digital tv subscription, your door lock could be digital, you use cashless payments and maybe are even tempted with the new cellular Apple Watch. In business, we use video conferences and share screens and send emails. 


We live in a digital world. 


And yet, for some things the analogue – or at least non-digital – is still best; it is well known that face to face meetings are the best way to collaborate with each other. Yet sometimes it can be difficult to marry the two – digital and analogue together. But after a recent trip to London for a workshop – I came away with a renewed appreciation of how analogue techniques can be blended in a digital world. 


To set the scene, the workshop had the purpose to review a number of investment opportunities, (around 80) each had a number of cost options and a detailed list of activities that each investment required. As a group we had to identify which ones would be prioritized, which ones needed more work and which ones should be postponed for the future. This type of collaboration has no ‘right answers’ only points of view. 


Whilst the investments details were on PowerPoint if we had been flicking between multiple presentations we would never have been able to keep track. The simple solution? Print a 1-line summary of each option, and it’s cost onto a small playing card size printout. Cut this out and use these to help organize a priority list. 


Additional notes were made by hand on whiteboards, allowing us to wipe out and include additional requests. 


Most importantly of all, the people who were tasked with making the decisions were all in the room. Every stakeholder could pick up, move and re-order the print outs as a group – ensuring that everyone had the buy in and the visibility of the decisions. 


This seemed a good combination of digital and analogue. The paper and boards to organize our thoughts and rationale, the digital to provide more detail on the specifics when necessary. 
Another good marriage of analogue and digital I have come across is a fantastic new gadget, the Moleskin livescribe notepad and pen, I got as a present. This allows me to still create hand written notes and scribbles which is my default, but the pen simultaneously records them, allowing me to view them on your smartphone or edit on your computer. Genius. It’s a digital upgrade to my analogue preference. 


What both of these experiences have taught me is we shouldn’t accept inferior substitutes for the simple brilliance of face to face meetings, pen, paper and printouts. But exciting new technology – like my Moleskin pen – and embracing dual working – means we’re increasingly able to bring the benefits of our analogue world into the digital.

Who works in market research?

Who works in market research?

Who grows up thinking “When I get older I’m going to be a market researcher”? Not me – I was going to be a baker!

How companies are catering for people’s busy lifestyles

How companies are catering for people’s busy lifestyles

So healthy eating and having a healthy lifestyle doesn’t appear to be a fad or a trend, it’s the way things are nowadays. We have already seen intersections between health and exercise but this also begs the question – where will this go? What’s next for healthy lifestyles?

Do you act quickly enough?

Do you act quickly enough?

What is on your to do list today? What do you need to achieve? Are you confident of getting it all done?

Looking for new Ideas. You need Space.

Looking for new Ideas. You need Space.

A popular statistic that was circulated a few years ago is that ‘65% of children entering primary school now – will be in jobs that did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago’.

Seven benefits of displayed thinking that can produce better ideas

Seven benefits of displayed thinking that can produce better ideas

What do you think of when I say the word ‘chair’?

Chances are that you think of the basic construct of a chair – legs, a seated platform, and a back. But beyond that what you imagine and what I imagine could be completely different. You may be thinking of a padded chair, more like a sofa, whereas I could be thinking of a rocking chair. Or you could be thinking of an office chair and me a garden chair.

Finding the Positives in Brexit

Finding the Positives in Brexit

So, Brexit. We voted; our Prime Minister chivalrously bequeathed his successor a legacy as daunting as any in generations; we’ve seen an opposition party in ineffectual disarray; we’ve witnessed constitutional and legal challenges; we’ve even made some limited progress to understanding what Brexit might actually entail!

Zero-hours contracts: Defending the indefensible?

Zero-hours contracts: Defending the indefensible?

Over the past 5 years zero-hours contracts have become a major talking point in the UK, with a raft of negative coverage in the media as the number of people employed on them balloons; just last week it was reported that the number of zero contracts in the UK had reached a new record high of 910,000 workers.

To Do or Not to Do, That is the…Way To Avoid Procrastination

To Do or Not to Do, That is the…Way To Avoid Procrastination

We all lead busy lives. It goes hand in hand that the more responsibility you have in the workplace, the more items seem to find their way onto your plate. There are countless articles, studies and journals out there that highlight the most effective ways to stay productive when times get busy.

Think On Paper – Monotasking the Creative Process

Think On Paper – Monotasking the Creative Process

Edward de Bono said it best in his now world famous book, the six thinking hats, ‘the main difficulty in thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once.’ Humans can’t multitask. That’s not a new insight, all the way back to Adam Smith’s Division of Labor, and before, people have decried our inability to do lots of things at the same time.

Crap Communication Creates Client Calamity

Crap Communication Creates Client Calamity

In many ways, this blog is a rant. It is an avenue to vent frustration as all other avenues have been exhausted. That said, on the bright side – it has provided a reinforcement to the notion that clear communication is vital when dealing with people.

Take A Load Off - 3 tips to avoid losing your audience

Take A Load Off - 3 tips to avoid losing your audience

It’s hard to keep paying attention during a presentation. According to molecular biologist, John Medina, a person’s maximum concentration is ten minutes. And that is, according to Medina, a presentation of ‘medium interest, not too boring and not too exciting.’

Client Expectations – The Most Important Question of All

Client Expectations – The Most Important Question of All

What are you expecting from this blog? If you are looking for a short read, to pass a few moments and to understand a point of view about a topic that could be related to your work – hopefully those expectations will be met.

How psychologists can help us craft better presentations

How psychologists can help us craft better presentations

In a fascinating book, Origins of the human mind, Canadian psychology Melvin Donald suggests that humans are three distinct evolutionary stages above apes in terms of our cognition. These steps are all related to an ability to better communicate with others.