My Company Wants to Control Customer Research from Global…What Now?

Increasingly often, we hear this complaint from our clients. Suddenly they are being kicked out of the loop when it comes to research projects. Global sources the projects and then fields them in local markets – sometimes without even telling or involving the affiliates. These projects can go through many layers of handling and management before a moderator and respondent(s) sit down in the same room. In a worst case scenario, this can look like a game of broken telephone, with muddied objectives and watered-down results. Yet some of our best clients seem to have learned a few tricks for still getting an optimal result. Here’s what they have shared with us:

  1. The researcher or product team at the local affiliate has built a strong relationship with their counterpart(s) at Global.
  2. They have specifically requested that if moderation is to be outsourced, one of their preferred local suppliers should be considered.
  3. Local researchers take time to get involved with the briefings themselves, so they can contribute home field tips that will make the project go more smoothly.
  4. Global requires that suppliers at the top of the research chain facilitate a dialogue between the local moderator or field service and the home town affiliate.
  5. Field Managers or Project Directors ensure that everyone can reach the right person to answer a question or deal with an issue in the fewest number of steps.

We’ve seen some tremendous results when our clients have taken these steps. First, the local researcher has a chance to shine in front of more senior head office personnel. Secondly, there is often an opportunity to adapt questionnaires and discussion guides to eliminate questions that have been answered, or add probes about specific local issues. Some of our customers have also been able to pay for a local “advance copy” of their report, rather than waiting for multi-country results to be analyzed – allowing for faster decision-making – while keeping the field costs as Global’s line item.

These approaches can allow a result that is “glocal” at its finest – perhaps one of them will work for you! We’re happy to discuss how you can make the most of your research budgets.

Always optimizing,

Megann and Steve

Grammy Said Everything Comes in Threes

SwitchRecently we were discussing Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. It’s a terrific book with some great insights into why rational arguments aren’t enough to get teams, families, businesses, or towns to go where they need to go. We don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but the Heath brothers break down the process into three critical components, all of which must be satisfied for the change to happen. Similarly, we’ve spoken many times with our clients about how, in order to adapt and grow, three parts of the organization must be modified: the strategy, the systems, and the structure. Product managers we know talk about successful products being dependent on people, products, and processes.

Why are these triumvirate models so logical, reasonable, and easy to understand? It’s because they’re all about metaphor. The best metaphor we know, came from a services marketing course Megann took at Queen’s University – it’s the three-legged stool. Whether your stool consists of a rider, and elephant and a path like the Heath brothers’ book, or whether it’s the triple-s organizational change model, or even the three p’s…people can easily grasp the idea that if you’re sitting on a three-legged stool, and one leg is broken, things aren’t going to turn out nicely.

So the next time you’re trying to make a change in your people, process, or product, we recommend you figure out what the three legs are, and make sure they’re all working in tandem.

Three-legged racing toward the finish line,

Megann and Steve

A Step in the Right Direction

As spring begins to settle in and the days get longer, we’re also noticing that organizations are awakening to new ideas and fresh ways of thinking. It also seems that many of us have had quite enough doom-and-gloom or fear-mongering, and we’re pushing our friends, clients, and colleagues to focus on opportunities, and to turn them into action. Around our table we’re developing new offerings that address the questions that companies are wrestling with, and working with them to find solutions to their burning questions.

So how do you move from fear to action? There are lots of steps you can take to get going; just taking a step (any step) is what’s important. For inspiration, here are some activities we’ve heard about from our own friends and clients over the past week or two:

  1.  
    1. Craving a little optimism in your life? Check out the Combined Optimism Project
    2. Want to shake up your thinking and look at business (or life) in a new way? Mindcamp’s Idea Tastings might be just the thing for you. 
    3. Finally, those of you who know us personally know we’re big believers in using a walk or a workout to solve problems. One of our clients told us this week that she solved a whole shopping list of problems by going running. So why not work some activity into your day?

Here’s to a step in the right direction,

Megann & Steve

Plan to Succeed

When creative and critical thinking skills come together, great things happen. Teams can innovate more effectively, focus their direction, mobilize resources, and get support from senior management for new initiatives. But when either one is used alone, sometimes what promised to be a great session ends up fizzling into a potage of inaction, cynicism, or divergence. Use only creative thinking skills, and you’ll probably get plenty of fantastic ideas on the table, especially if you work in the company of smart, talented people (which you probably do, even if you don’t realize it). The drawback to a mountain of great ideas, though, is that you can’t implement everything, even if you have unlimited time and money to spend. Conversely, employ only critical thinking skills and your discussion can devolve into, well, criticism. Then you’re left no farther ahead (and quite possibly behind).

What can you do to make sure you harness your innovation session’s full potential?

  1.  
    1. Set objectives for what you want to achieve in your session. (If you don’t have a destination in mind, how will you know when you’ve arrived?)
    2. Make sure the objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound). Otherwise you’re just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
    3. Dig deep. Don’t settle for the first 10 ideas you find. Continue until you’ve extracted every possible idea (no matter how crazy!) from your talent pool. When something’s missing, you always find it in the last place you look.
    4. For every idea, don’t figure out how to get rid of it. Decide what you could do to make it work. Then choose the ones that your organization is most uniquely suited to implement.
    5. Commit to their success, and ask everyone to decide what action they can personally take, today. Write it down share it with the group. There’s something about an on-paper, out-loud promise that makes it more likely to get done.

Thinking about your success,

Megann and Steve

How to Use Forward Momentum to Look Backward

Another school year is kicking off again, and that brings new challenges for parents, students, and educators, as their schedules change and their responsibilities evolve. The other thing we notice in our business is that this whole flurry of energy that is devoted to getting ready for “back to school” seems to carry over into the working world, even with clients who don’t fall into one of the categories above. Even if they aren’t parents, or students, or don’t have children getting ready for a new term, there’s a contagious sort of enthusiasm or positivity that wells up at this time of year.

Here in Panoptika’s world, this translates to projects like new product (or service) pipeline development, message creation, or team ideation sessions. More of the people we work with want to do things that are creating something new, developing alternatives, or searching for that elusive “next best thing”. Most of them aren’t thinking so much about measuring what’s working, what did work, or where they came from, during this season. As a consequence, our work is invigorating and exciting right now. It’s easy to propel ourselves forward into our workdays. That’s because it’s F-U-N.

Still, we think it’s important to have balance. A little introspection about what worked, or didn’t work, can be useful. Sometimes a simple satisfaction survey—is this working, or not, can give you a snapshot into what’s happening with your team, your clients, or your customers. But more often, they appreciate a more interactive engagement. That same premise of making it fun that we bring to Ideation and Creativity sessions, can elicit customer or colleague feedback that is chock-full of rich, relevant content. 

So don’t just think about putting your Idea-Generating hats on at this time of year, but ask yourself whether there are more ingenious or imaginative ways to register those still-important Checks and Balances.  Some possibilities you might consider (as always, a facilitator can help smooth the way):

  1. Bring your sales team together and ask them to show you how they are actually using the sales tools you’ve provided, by playing a game like Enthiosys’Show and Tell.
  2. Ask your customers to engage in collage-creation or role-playing to demonstrate how they interact with your company. Hyperbole should be encouraged—it gives them a chance to say what they’re really thinking, in the context of exaggeration.
  3. Let your clients create a “what I did to interact with you on my summer vacation” story to give feedback on your organization’s performance.

Looking ahead without pre-adventuring,

Megann & Steve

 

In Memory of George Carlin

The recent, sudden, death of George Carlin has spurred, at least among my friends and colleagues, a renaissance of interest relating to his thoughts over the years.  We are seeing things in the newspapers, on TV and in various blogs and newsletters, about how amazingly insightful he was.

We can all refer to the famous “Seven words you can’t say on television”, as it is both famous and infamous.  But he was more than just a guy who liked to shock people.  We like to think of him when we’re trying to inspire people to greater heights of creativity and inspiration.  One of his best techniques, which we gladly steal, is to look at things from a different perspective.  “How would your dog solve this problem?”, or “How would achieve the exact opposite result?”  George Carlin certainly looked at things from a very different perspective.

We came across a great George Carlin quote that, we think, allows us to refute the idea that your don’t need creativity in all businesses:

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

Use your creativity and passion to set someone else on fire, today and every day.  George would want it that way.

 

Keep on smiling!

 

Steve and Megann