BE – New news or BS?

March 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Behavioural Economics, or BE. It’s a hot topic right now in the world of research. It’s also a challenging topic for us to debate as it cuts to the core of what we do, how we do it and how much it will cost business and government to do it! Luckily we have a number of great local and international minds discussing what it is, what it isn’t and what it means for market and social research.

In short, BE suggests that traditional economics is unrepresentative of actual behaviour because of its focus on rational behaviour, which doesn’t actually exist. I am not sure if this is all new news, as, we have always known that many decisions are made at an unconscious level and that we may not know why we do something. However, this doesn’t mean that rational decision making doesn’t exist or isn’t useful to measure at times. Abi Hill and Stephen Phillips’ recent article in Research World entitled ‘We’re only human’ suggests we have to review how we do things and take out our own in going perspectives, “‘anchors and predefined constructs” ’, which, they argue, marginalises the consumers perspective – wow, they are fighting words indeed!.

As is the case with many of these topics, there always seems to be more questions than conclusive answers:-

• Does this change what we do or just how we interpret the information we collect on stated behaviour?
• How do we do undertake this form of analysis cost effectively and accurately?
• If asking decontextualised questions decontextualized invalidates results, how do we get the context required?
• What about passive forms of data capture and how do they stack up against the privacy code?
• Does this open up new opportunities for MR?
• What are the implications for qualitative research and content analysis?

So there is a lot to debate and whilst it is challenging, it’s not new news for research professionals in Australia. Much of the innovation within our industry over the past 20 years has been trying to address the issues laid out in BE theory. We have a different role to play than most economists and we are being asked to make thousands of predictions and forecasts every month in an effort to help business and government make better decisions. Long live the anchors and structures that enable improved decisions and let’s explore this brave new world of BE and see what’s possible and practical.


How Can Research Help Google?

March 15, 2012 at 5:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but I have never considered myself a qualitative or quantitative researcher. This may be because I started my career client side but I have always thought of myself as a business person, trying to work in or with companies and government to make better decisions (with their customers/constituents in mind). Often, how we collect the information required to make better decisions has not mattered (primary and secondary), as long as it is collected ethically, accurately, with quality in mind and has more than a sprinkling of analysis and thinking added in.

This has led me (and many of you I am sure) to all sorts of information and data collection methods including ‘desk research’ (a term now only used by those of us that can remember work before the internet). I am excited at the opportunities for our profession operating in the so-called ‘Google age’ because the potential appears endless (or, in other words, I am finding it hard to keep up ), as long as we choose to evolve and be part of it.

The world we are living in includes new potential competitors and contributors to primary research – along with new applications like Pinterest, Gentlemint and Instagram that may well play a role in research, given that they show us photos and imagery people all around the world choose to represent a word or a brand. The problem is we don’t exactly know who thinks what and why they think this and geographic boundaries rarely exist.

Google and the many new competitors may need our help in making sure these new tools are useful not only as methods of collecting data but also provide the analysis and thinking that I mentioned above. New companies and professionals need our advice and input to ensure ethics, quality and privacy are considered, so that long term they can continue to be useful. They don’t know what they don’t know yet, but our profession knows very well how to collect information in a reliable and high quality manner.

I recently completed a business-to-business survey that was sent to me from one of the new competitors in primary research and believe me when I say they could do with some advice on the principles of basic questionnaire design.

One important consequence of the Google world in which we live is the expectation of speed. We are expecting everything faster than ever before but I am not sure that commercial decisions are being made at the same pace.

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