Forced to pivot: rethinking what we do & how we do it

24 June 2020


Change isn't always easy, but in its wake we can find opportunity

Nathan Farmer - a qualitative veteran and leading voice globally, talks through his personal journey during lockdown; sharing how the remote-lifestyle has changed his perspective on social connection and his consumer insights field.

I went into lockdown believing everything was ‘fine’ and, thankfully, have come out the other side still believing the same. But there was a period somewhere in the middle where I was not so sure, which had me booking a session with a health professional and being at the receiving end of somebody else’s handy work. 

Of course, given the lock down situation, this had to be conducted online and the experience has me reflecting on lessons learnt for our business and industry, and wondering why we are still conducting one-on-one interviews in-person for any other reasons than that’s the way they have always been done. After all, our professions share similarities – we both seek solutions to problems.

Time to work and connect

An observation, and a possibly why I neglected seeing a doctor before Lockdown. Online is bloody easy! I found ‘my man’ online. We exchanged a couple of emails & then booked a time that worked for us a both. At the given time, I fixed a coffee in the comfort of my own home, found a quiet spot, and there he was. We don’t need to talk to busy lives, inner-city traffic and parking problems to explain how a 30-minute appointment can take 2 hours of your time, or how something you should do becomes too hard, let alone something you are ‘volunteering’ to do! 

My belief is that the convenience the online channel affords will help the market research industry reach participants who have in the past struggled to justify the time. Working professionals, who are often an important target for our clients and amongst those hardest to ‘convince’, have suddenly just got easier to talk to.

Video conferencing democratised

A reflection. I was, and still am, all ‘set-up’ for engaging in the online world, with everyone from my Dad to my colleagues to my kids. Speaking of kids, they now know to stay out of the downstairs room when dads working. I had a multi-screen set-up, a separate wide-angle camera and a separate conference mic & speaker. I was also match-fit when it came to video conferencing platforms. ‘My man’ preferred Skype, which happens to be my 3rd choice after Teams and Zoom. He said he was fine with either, so Zoom it was.

I believe it to be true. We are in a new era. Where video calling has been happily democratised and is no longer something just for millennials and business people. That there are now fewer excuses as to why you cannot do your meeting online. And there are a growing range of platforms that have their own unique advantages that we can leverage for the need of different projects.

The Covid-19 reset switch

A first-hand experience of comfort, rapport and connection. I had what I can only describe as a immersive experience. I talked. He talked and we covered a range of personal needs, vulnerabilities and motivations that were the result of good questioning rather than the chosen medium. I guess what I am saying is - I have no doubt that we would have arrived at the same point when connecting in a ‘traditional' way, but our virtual session didn’t come at a cost.

So, I’m convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a reset opportunity across a number of different sectors. In the qualitative & planning fields of insight & strategy we have been forced to engage in non-traditional ways that has created more winners than losers. It is now easier for our clients to get closer to their research. For our strategist’s - long drives and late nights, just for a participant to be a no-show, have suddenly got more palatable. For our strategist’s families - they perhaps do not have to re-adjust to them being around less. And our footprint as an industry has suddenly got a whole lot lighter. Thank you, Covid-19, for showing me what I was too set in my ways to see.

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Tags: Communications strategy, Brand management, Ethnography, Culture, Thriving, Immersion, Wellbeing, Remote working, Productivity, Business management