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I've had the opportunity to attend a few MR and Marketing Industry conferences in Australia, the UK, North America and Asia over the past 12 months. As always, these conferences are designed to scare the living daylights out of marketing and research professionals. They are highlighting how much things are changing, that consumers are more empowered than ever, that technology is the driving force, that clients are demanding more, faster, for less, and the fast flowing giant river of information (big data). In short, they are driving home the fact that the Revolution is on, i.e. "If you don't like change, you will like relevance less."

Two key thoughts are staying with me, one from Steve Sammartino (@sammartino) from Grey who discussed the idea of Omnipresent deflation. In short, everything is getting cheaper to do. I think the research industry is getting stuck with this concept and unsure what to do.

What is our model to cope with Omnipresent deflation and still survive?

The second thought that is sticking with me was from Jim Antonopoulos (@jimantonopoulos), from TANK. He spoke about the advertising industry needing to adjust creative delivery to the business environment in 2012 and suggested that they are moving to an idea of 'Lean creativity'.

Lean is not quick and dirty, it's not cheap and cheerful, it's a creative process and delivery that is a better fit for today vs. the past. Not over-engineered. Less waste.

Again, what would the research response be to 'Lean Research'? Many are jumping to DIY software solutions or 'free research' via observation. This is not lean, these are just cheaper solutions. It's not what we need. Business and government still require robust, well designed, citizen or consumer, input to assist decision making we just need to make what we do now "Leaner".

For me, Lean Research ideas include:

  • recycling profiled sample;
  • not asking questions that you won't use the data for;
  • shorter, sharper, longitudinal learning;
  • always on research;
  • mobile or Facebook enabled;
  • making good use of valuable open ended responses (especially in B2B);
  • more small experiments vs. large catch all projects;
  • more test, action, retest, action vs. one go at receiving feedback.

Not quick and dirty. Not shallow but, dare I suggest, better quality.

We have started to explore what lean research could mean to research at Vision Critical in Sydney. Last week we brainstormed 18 potential executions / lean research ideas that we will be experimenting with over the next few weeks. We are hoping that 4-5 great applications will come out of this and we can begin sharing with clients and proving our point.

Here's to a leaner future, and by leaner I mean healthier future for all who choose to adapt. If you have ideas on Lean Research or thoughts on how to go Lean, we'd love to hear them.

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