As we speak to researchers across the industry, we are seeing a fundamental paradigm shift from an insight-orientation to an action-orientation. For many years, researchers have been in an insight-oriented paradigm, in which the role of the researcher is often defined by their ability to uncover insights. However, we are seeing an evolution toward more of an action-orientation. Within this paradigm, the role of the researcher is often defined by driving organizational change. This shift toward action-orientation is characterized by three key areas:

  1. Role: Researchers are redefining their roles as more of a strategic consultant, rather than a traditional market researcher.
  2. Organizational Mandate: Researchers are increasingly redefining their organizational purpose as helping to drive action, rather than just driving knowledge.
  3. Purview: Researchers are increasingly redefining their purview as a long-term, programmatic engagement, rather than individual projects with a discrete beginning and end.

This is not to say that the insight-orientation is going away – insights will always remain central to what researchers do. However, this insight-orientation is no longer enough, and researchers are increasingly adopting an action-oriented mindset.In the traditional insight-oriented process, we have a typical three-step process:

  1. designing our research instrument
  2. conducting fieldwork
  3. analyzing what we learned during fieldwork

At the conclusion of that process, we are able to output a few key insights for the organization.As we look at the action-oriented process, we see much more engagement before and after the traditional insight generation process.

action orientation

There are a few key things to point out about this process:

  1. The insight generation process has not changed. As mentioned earlier, insights remain central to the process and it will always be important for researchers to be able to execute on the traditional instrument design -> fieldwork -> analysis.
  2. The action-oriented process requires researchers to extend well beyond the traditional insight generation phase. As mentioned earlier, the key finding from this consortium is that driving action requires deep engagement both before and after the traditional research process.
  3. The action-oriented process is cyclical. Unlike projects that have a linear beginning and end, the action-oriented process creates a cycle of engagement.

Over the next few weeks, we will reveal the steps market researchers need to take to achieve an action orientation. Image courtesy of Steve Mohundro on Flickr Creative Commons

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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