Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 229 – page 229
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I’m excited to have Brad Barash from Decision Insight in Kansas City as the first guest blogger. Brad and I worked together for a number of years, and he was the creative force behind a video called, “How to Kill a Business.” It remains one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of portraying research insights in a fun and incredibly memorable way using video. So when it comes to expertise in communicating research reports in unique, impactful ways, he knows from where he speaks!

When Mike asked me to write about communicating research results, one word quickly came to mind:

Regurgitation.

What a great word. So vivid. So unmistakable in its connotation.

I cannot think of a better word (unfortunately) to describe the typical research report. Too often, the “writing” in reports is simply regurgitation of the data on the slide (“17% of respondents _____”). That’s not delivering insight. That’s dumping data. (Regurgitating, dumping… may be coming from different places, but the result is the same!)

Our job as researchers and marketers is to tell a story, not report data. We should be writing the column on the sports page, not simply delivering the box scores.

There is a reason most reports don’t feel like a cohesive story. Researchers are too quick to create charts and graphs. Then, the charts and graphs are put in “chronological” order (i.e. question 1 on slide 1, question 2 on slide 2, etc.). When you do this, you are confined to a structure that is rarely conducive to telling the best story.

To go from data dump to story, use what I call the “note card puzzle” approach. First, scour the data, and write every key finding on a separate note card. At this point, it is OK to simply regurgitate the data point onto the card.

Then, physically put together the cards that “fit” together, or those that point to a consistent theme.

From there, come up with no more than 3-4 key themes, or big picture “insights.”

Next, re-sort the note cards across the key insights as follows:

  • Support one of the key insights
  • Contradict one of the key insights
  • Spurious (do not support or contradict any of the key insights)

Ideally, there are few contradictory data points. If they do exist, first find out if they truly contradict the insight. To understand how to sort through meaningful data interpretations, check out this article by Richard McCullough. (This should be required reading for any researcher!)

If there are meaningful contradictions, then the key insights likely need to be revised. Most often, however, you are left with some spurious data points that should be buried in the appendix. And, with the “supporting” data points, you have a structure that makes telling the story simple. Key insight 1 is _____, and here is the data that supports that; key insight 2 is ______, and here is the data that supports that, etc.

One final trick to telling a story: do NOT use statistics or data in your headlines. Quick Example:

  • Page 1 – Key Insight: The Jayhawks are a solid pick to win the National Championship this year.
  • Page 2 – Headline: They are a veteran team.
    Support charts/graphs: % of upperclassman relative to other contenders
  • Page 3 – Headline: They have won big games already this year.
    Support charts/graphs: # of wins vs. ranked teams
  • Page 4 – Headline: They are balanced, so they can overcome a poor game by any one player.
    Support charts/graphs: scoring averages of starters relative to other contenders
  • Etc.

Here’s hoping this example does not make any non-Jayhawk fans regurgitate! But, notice how there is no statistic in any insight or headline. The data that is reported simply supports the writing. Brad Barash

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Pineapples aren’t necessarily associated with Miami. But pineapples are symbols of hospitality, and that was in full evidence at the marcus evans Market Research & Consumer Insights conference yesterday in South Florida.

As conference chairperson Dr. Daniel Thorpe from Wachovia pointed out, there was a lot of incredible research talent in attendance! Beyond Dan’s look at ROI (which will be featured in the May 2008 Harvard Business Review), there were strong presentations from:

  • Jennifer Nelson (J&J Consumer Healthcare Products) – Developing new insight capabilities
  • Kimarie Matthews (Wells-Fargo) – Using Customer Loyalty to drive change
  • Nancy Robinson & Kate Muhl (iconoculture) – Insights on Moms among young boomers, Gen X, and Millennials
  • Dave Mazur & Dan Teeter (Nissan North America) – Transforming the market research function

I covered strategic thinking for market researchers and will be covering some specifics from the conference here soon.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m at the marcusevans Market Resarch & Consumer Insights conference today talking about strategic thinking and the opportunity that market researchers have to contribute to broader strategic success in their companies. One of the keys to delivering on this promise is to have strong relationships with your key market research partners.

Several years ago, I sat down with our main market research company to address what was wrong in our strategic relationship. Taking the approach that we both had faults leading to problems in our relationship was a constructive way to get both of us back on track. The “Ten Things” list can work for almost any market research relationship. Fell free to use or adapt it with your marketing partners:
Ten Things – The Foundation to a Strategic Research Relationship
  1. Be a “thought partner” with us. This is a two-way street – we’ve got to treat you like one before you can do what it takes to become one.
  2. Your energy and passion for what you do (and your intellectual curiosity) need to be evident.
  3. There’s a difference between researchers who think they’re researchers and researchers who see themselves as business people. It’s tough to explain the differences, but they’re readily apparent. We need researchers who think like business people if we are to be successful.
  4. Understand our business more deeply than from just the numbers that you see. If not, we’ll never get to where we must go.
  5. Bring creativity to questioning, analysis, and reporting (and any place else in the process). That means generating new ideas to produce breakthroughs on mutual efficiencies, high impact insights, easy to grasp reporting, and actionable recommendations.
  6. We must put information into context. We can’t afford to just report numbers or even changes in numbers. We need to get to insights. What does it mean? What do we do about it?
  7. We have to get beyond reports that show charts and have bullets that merely say what is on the chart. We have to offer our audiences relevant insights. That takes pulling information from various sources (including people) and analyzing, talking, and identifying relationships among everything we’re looking at.
  8. Look outside our industry or outside research circles for ways to report information. Review Edward Tufte, Richard Saul Wurman, and others. Are there movie scenes that help us get our points across? Magazine ads? Always ask the question: “What’s that like?”
  9. Communicate proactively – let’s make sure we talk and we’re all clear on things before moving ahead. That may mean a phone call instead of an email.
  10. Exhibit strong attention to detail – that way we can get beyond fact & spell checking and spend our time on delivering insights.

If you can get to this point with your research partners, you’ll truly be doing COOL WORK that matters and that can change your company and your industry. WOW!!!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s early March, so spring HAS to be just around the corner (I HOPE!). Spring’s a time for new growth as farmers focus on the upcoming growing season, ensuring that they’re taking all the necessary steps to increase the yield from their efforts. So thinking about business opportunities that you need to grow and exploit, who better to delegate your creative thinking to than a farmer who is experienced at proven ways to grow and harvest successfully.

Remember, use the great growth techniques below that farmers use and generalize how you may be able to apply each of them in at least 3 ways to generate new creative ideas for growth in your opportunities.

  • Researches the best crop to plant for the land & environmental conditions
  • Prepares the soil
  • Plants the crops at the proper time
  • Waters the crops to stimulate initial growth
  • Fertilizes to ensure maximum growth
  • Protects the growing crops against insects and other adverse conditions
  • Buys crop insurance in case problems environmental problems develop
  • Harvests the crop when it’s ready
  • Follows market information on crop prices to know when and/or how to sell what’s harvested
  • Sells the harvested crops
  • Rotates crops periodically to keep the soil healthy

Happy growing with your new creative ideas; remember it’s less than a month until spring!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When you don’t have anything interesting to say about thinking and research, step aside and let people who do have something to say take the floor:

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Something happens to take you off plan. Sometimes it can’t be avoided…the first time.

But how do you avoid getting your plan derailed a second or third time? One way is by revisiting an implementation effort that went awry and addressing questions such as those below, turning the answers into lessons that you and your team can use in the future to guide your actions:

  • What happened to cause these implementation effort problems?
  • What was the root cause – really?
  • Was there a backup implementation strategy in place? Yes or No? Did the backup implementation strategy fail as well?
  • What were the indicators that there would be a problem? Did we notice or ignore them? Will the signals likely be there next time in a comparable situation?
  • Was available information not gathered or processed?
  • How did we deal with missing information?
  • In what ways might the implementation effort differ next time?
  • If we think it was “bad luck,” how do we create “good luck” in the future?

These few questions will go a long way toward providing a foundation to improve your performance next time. For an insightful, more in-depth look at various types of mistakes and the personal perspective and processes to address them, check out this essay from Scott Berkun. And while you’re doing so, poke around on his website. I just started, and it looks like there are a lot of cool ideas to discover!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Today is Leap Day, an extra day on the calendar. Use it well, because there are no guarantees on how long our important relationships will last, whether they’re in our business or personal lives. So take advantage of every opportunity daily to grow the people around you and to learn from them in turn.

Ask yourself several questions. Are you giving enough of yourself to these important people? Can you see your positive influence on them? Have you helped prepare them to pass on to others the lessons you’ve shared? Do these people know how much they mean to you? Are you ready to let them go?

To judge whether you are doing this successfully or not, try this. Imagine one of your most important relationships is drawing to a close, but you get one extra day with that person. Would you do anything differently on that special day? If the answer is yes, you have some more giving to do.

One of my most important business relationships isn’t ending today, but it is certainly entering a new phase as someone who is a wonderful friend and a tremendously talented and important member of the team takes the leap to the next exciting phase of her career.

And as sad as this type of transition can be, it’s among the most gratifying things in business to see some of the very special, talented researchers I’ve worked with go on to be so successful in their careers. As that group grows by one today, they all make me so proud to have learned from them and to have been a part of their professional growth.

P.S. To learn directly from one of them, check out next Friday’s blog with our first guest blogger, as Brad Barash at Decision Insight throws up some ideas on communicating research more effectively.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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