Time is on Your Side

TimeNever enough time…never enough time. Does that sound familiar? There are lots of reasons you may feel like you don’t have enough time. Some of these include many different client commitments coming together at once, a new project that takes more time to learn than you had anticipated, or life events that have come “out of the blue”.

Here’s the thing: there will always be a certain level of uncertainty or lack of control if you are moving forward into uncharted territory. As much as you would like to have a clear way forward and time to accomplish it all, that may be an unrealistic expectation. So how do you resolve that?

When you think of the things you are trying to fit into your limited time budget, the first thing to firm up are your goals. Then, if we move our uncharted territory analogy forward, think of the control you are trying to gain over time as a map. When you travel between Point A and Point B on a map, you set the destination and look at the route, but there may still be detours or unanticipated changes to your route. What matters most is to make it to Point B. If you can set goals of where you want to be, time may become a bit easier to manage. First, on the map there are many sideroads you can take. Any of them have the potential to move you forward. But once you’ve made a choice that goes in the direction of your Point B, lots of those side roads become irrelevant. Similarly, if you look at your many time commitments and think about your goal, those that aren’t moving you in the direction of your goal should become irrelevant. Yes, it may be frustrating to not be able to do it all. The good news is that to accomplish a limited set of actions, most of which move you toward a goal, is more liberating, less frustrating, and will empower you to set ever-greater goals in your sights.

So even if it seems counter-intuitive when you are running like crazy, take time to set aside enough time to figure out where you want to get, and your journey will become much easier.

On the road, always,

Megann and Steve

Staring 2013 in the Face

20121231-103111.jpg Happy New Year, one and all!

We’re looking back on 2012 with gratitude for all the exciting opportunities that have presented themselves to us this year. Moving our head office to Nova Scotia has been an exciting challenge. We are especially proud of having maintained our global presence, working with clients in Canada, the UK, the US, Germany, and Belgium. And we’ve stretched our heads around product ranges from drugs for atrial fibrillation, to knitting, to mental health, to energy drinks, and back to cardiovascular health again, all the while helping our clients get a better understanding of what their customers need and want.

So what’s on tap for 2013? Hopefully, more of the same. We’ll also continue to manifest our gratitude by finding ways to fight against hunger, homelessness, and poverty here in Canada. By partnering with us, you help us support these important causes. For that, we thank you.

Continued success for 2013,

Megann and Steve

Start it now!

Do you have a project you’ve been hoping to implement – a new initiative or some sort of change in process or procedure, but you just can’t seem to get it going in the summertime? It’s easy to let things slide in the summer, when offices frequently take on a slower pace. You deserve a rest, right? Besides, half the people you need to get that project off the ground are away on holiday! So why not just let it go until after Labour Day?

Here’s why: when those team members return after the holiday, they’ll have loads of catching up to do. They may not be interested in taking on something new. Despite the perception that a “back-to-school” mentality exists in September, the reality is that many of your co-workers may feel like they need a vacation to recover from their vacation backlog.

In fact here are three reasons why it may be better to simply start that project now:

  1. It will give other colleagues a chance to stretch themselves by taking on unfamiliar tasks.
  2. Fresh eyes often result in more creative solutions, rather than status quo.
  3. Those who step up in summer may be more committed to the project than those who do it just because it’s another obligation.

We have a host of new initiatives on the go right now, and it’s invigorating! By September we hope to be reaping the fruits of our labours.

Rolling up our sleeves,

Megann and Steve

Clear out the Clutter!

Our year-end is the end of July, so as we always do at this time of year, we’ve been de-cluttering. (Some might say Uncluttering). It’s amazing how much stuff we keep because we’re going to get around to dealing with it someday. Or because it seems wrong to just throw it out. We beseech you, do it. Get rid of those articles you have been meaning to read. Throw away those journals that are six months old and you are sure must contain something important. It’s a very freeing feeling to get things that have been simply weighing you down off your desk.

While you’re at it, mid-calendar year is a great time to re-look at your goals and objectives. (Remember those great ideas you came back to work with in January?) What’s working? What’s not? Now that you’ve thrown or repurposed all the stuff that has been holding you back, you can look at your tactics with fresh eyes – and make some real progress.

Don’t know where to start? Here are four great ways to get going:

  1. Start with the obvious – Pick one area that is very visible to you (hint: it might be your desk – but it could be your desktop or your inbox). Give yourself a time limit (an hour) or a number limit (100 items). Work until that limit has elapsed. You’ll be able to see real progress.
  2. Clean the slate – remove all items from an area you want to sort, and only put back what you is either useful, necessary, or beautiful. Let the rest go.
  3. Take 10 – 10 minutes at the end of each workday to put things in order so you have a clean slate the next morning.
  4. One in, one out – Don’t add anything else to the clutter without throwing something away, giving to charity, or repurposing.

Cleaning up our act,

Megann and Steve

Brainstorming Gone Wild!

Recently we’ve been observing a company we know, trying to find a solution to a problem. They have been looking in every direction, but the end doesn’t seem to be in sight. They’ve come up with several possibilities, and tried different approaches, but nothing seems to be working. They’ve put their heads together. So what’s going wrong?

What our friends are experiencing is brainstorming gone wild. We often hear criticism of brainstorming – and it generally takes the form of “We looked at every possible option, but we still didn’t come up with an answer. Brainstorming just doesn’t work.” However what usually doesn’t work is that the team involved has tried to shortcut or short-circuit the process.

Effective problem solving requires a two-phased approach. First, discovery. Getting all the ideas on the table. Exploring every possible avenue. Then, assessment and development. What do the solutions have in common? What are the best elements? Can they be combined? What isn’t implementable or affordable? Most brainstorming failures we have seen have occurred when ideas are rejected, adapted, or assessed during the discovery phase, or when the brainstormers have satisficed – settling for the first, obvious solution. There’s a fine line between stopping too soon, and keeping on looking long after the solution has been revealed, in the hope of eliminating all possible risk.

How can this be avoided? Seek help from an unbiased source – a professional facilitator, or even a successful colleague from a completely different domain. Someone who can hold up the magnifying glass for you, and help you know when it’s time to cross the line.

Throwing ideas at the wall…and helping you choose one that works,

Megann and Steve

But I’m sure that’s what you said…!?

Since our last blog, where we recommended beginning with the
end in mind (thank you, Mr. Covey), we’ve completed another project. In this
case, we were working on some new messages with one of our clients and their
agency. We all gathered together for two days of mock sales presentations, each
followed by an in-depth interview. As with every project, we were tasked with
delivering our recommendations as quickly as possible.

Each of the sessions, both the presentation and the
interview, was video-recorded. Ideally, we like to go back through each
recording and watch for visual cues we’ve missed, and to be sure of we’ve
heard. We’re often asked, is all that time really necessary? Here’s what we
found: there were several key areas where what everyone in the room thought
they had heard or seen, wasn’t exactly what had transpired. So how can you be
sure that what you learned from qualitative research was right?

Here are a few steps that can help:

  1. Have someone attend the research from your team who doesn’t work on that brand (they’re less likely to frame what they hear based on their pre-judgements, assumptions, or wishes for the product).
  2. If it’s a business-to-business project where the respondents are known to you, resist the urge to promote or discount remarks based on how you feel about the respondent.
  3. Make sure you record the sessions or, at a minimum, have a note-taker who is an objective third party.
  4. Take time to review recordings and/or transcripts, asking, “When I make a conclusion, can I back it up with a specific verbatim or visual example?”
  5. Then, and only then, finalize the conclusions and decide what they mean for the project.

Practicing active listening,

Megann and Steve

 

5 Questions to Ask before Starting your Next Research Project

Stephen Covey’s 2nd habit, Begin with the End in Mind, brings to mind a problem we occasionally encounter with new research clients. Often these customers come to us searching, because they’ve been dissatisfied with the results they’ve obtained from investigative or exploratory projects in the past.

One thing that can often stand in the way of a study being useful (or used) is not having the end in mind when planning the project. Let’s be clear about what we mean: not that the team should anticipate the results, but rather, that they should think through a few key questions to be sure they get the answers they need.

  1. What decision will we make, or what action will we take/not take, based on the results?
  2. Who is the audience?
  3. Who will use the results? (This is different than the audience, who may just be interested in the findings)
  4. Who can answer the question? (Often the consumer isn’t the best observer of his/her own behaviour)
  5. What is the “covert brief” – that is, is there an underlying business challenge that will impact whether we are really ready to take the recommendations on board?

Sometimes when we’ve been through these questions, we end up with a completely different (but ultimately more actionable) project than the client originally anticipated. For your next project, ask yourself these questions – and communicate them to your research consultant. We suspect you’ll be glad you did.

Looking for richer results,

Megann and Steve