Thursday, October 18, 2012

Activate Innovation

Why a penguin? It will make sense in a minute

I have to confess, one of the sessions I am most looking forward to at TMRE is “Creating a culture for Successful Innovation” given by the Campbell Soup Company.


Because innovation is so very important to drive a business forward.

But far too often I observe companies requesting (or demanding!) their employees…and specifically their research teams…be innovative, without creating a culture in which innovation is part of the life breath of the organization.

It’s not enough to wish it and it will be so.  Consider some of the below steps to take towards becoming an innovative organization…and then join me for the Campbell Soup Company session at TMRE!

Hire Hungry
When adding to your team, seek out characteristics in potential new hires that lead the way to innovative thinking such as: a propensity for proactivity, openness to new ideas and feedback, and a past track record of measured risk-taking in their former role.  Hire staff that is hungry for new challenges and who are open to learning along the way. For more on characteristics to look for, this is an excellent article.

Reward Risk Taking (and Sometimes Failure)
One of my favorite moments every year at our company is when awards are announced, and my favorite award is the “First Penguin” award.  You may think that’s an odd name, but hear me out.

When a group of penguins approaches an ice shelf, one penguin must be the first to “take the plunge” – aka First Penguin.  There may be sea lions waiting in the water for that first penguin to take the dive, so it’s a risky move that can lead to great success…or great failure.

At our company, the reward goes to a staff member who takes a big risk and innovates with one of our products.  The risk may not lead to great success, but that staff member took the plunge off the ice shelf.

Shake Complacency
It’s easy to get too comfortable and complacent with your job…and if you do it’s likely your staff will follow suit. I spoke to this a bit earlier in my Outside your Comfort Zone blog post but I feel it bears repeating.

Shake off your complacency and that of your staff.  Network with other peers in the industry online or in person to see how others are approaching similar challenges.  Get out of the office for a group training day, exploring a type of research you don’t typically do…that will help to energize you and your team and shake the cobwebs out of your brains. 

For more on building an innovative culture, take a look at this recent article in Inc. Magazine – it’s a short read and a good one!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back to Basics

As we prepare to head off to TMRE in a few short weeks, I know we're all thinking about the latest in research strategy and innovation that we'll learn about while on site in Boca Raton, as well as taking advantage of the myriad of networking opportunities!

But let me take this moment to bring us back down to earth for a moment and share a cautionary tale about remembering the research basics.

I spoke with an industry peer recently who is graciously allowing me to share his story. For the sake of this blog, let's call him Todd (not his real name!).

Over the past year, Todd and his team have been following the mobile research trend and were excited to get approval to pilot a mobile research strategy at one of their one-day events. They had done extensive research to understand how active their audience was on mobile, especially tablets.

Todd and his team were very thorough in setting up tablet optimized session surveys to be available for launch at the end of each session time, as well as some other short surveys and activities meant for tablet use.

Sounds great, right?

However, from the keynote kickoff in the morning to the lunchtime round table discussions, Todd's team saw lots of note taking...on paper! Pens and pads of paper were the rule of the day. After observing this in multiple sessions, Todd did some intercepts to find out where they went wrong with their tablet research.

Come to find out their tablet research was spot-on: pretty much everyone Todd stopped brought an iPad or other tablet device, but had left them in the hotel rooms due to sky-high WiFi rates that by that point were non-negotiable with the conference center/hotel.

The lesson we can all learn from Todd's story? Be sure you cover the basics, especially around logistics, when launching a new research venture. The epilogue? Todd and his team did some quick thinking and were able to field some paper surveys for the afternoon sessions.

For more learning from your peers, be sure to catch some of the interactive discussion sessions at TMRE with Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Bloomberg News, and more.