In the past, market researchers typically fulfilled the role of ‘order takers’. In this role, the market researcher was a data gatherer who deferred to stakeholders, and whose purpose was to provide raw data. Order takers had no seat at the metaphorical table. Researchers are increasingly expected to not only provide insight, but to drive organizational transformation in today’s insight driven world. In contrast, today’s market researcher is currently seeking to fulfill the role of a ‘partner’. In this role, market researchers engage in a consultative relationship with stakeholders and provide insights into the raw data. As trusted partners, market researchers have obtained a seat at the table.
“While it is easy for market researchers to abdicate responsibility for whether the organization acts on research insights, market researchers increasingly are taking steps to change the way their stakeholders behave with market research findings.” – Research Revolutions 2012 Consortium
If today’s market researcher is a partner with a seat at the table, the question is: what role are market researchers evolving towards in the future?
Based on conversations with partner agencies and clients, we are calling this future role the ‘strategic leader’ or ‘change agent’. Being a strategic leader is defined by the relationship between market researchers and their internal stakeholders. The best way to define this relationship is to revisit the proverbial table: if a partner has a seat at the table, then a strategic leader sits at the head of the table. In this role as strategic leaders, market researchers lead the conversation among stakeholders and drive the strategy that follows.
Every organizational change, whether large or small, requires one or more change agents, which is where the market research comes in. A change agent is anyone who has the skill and power to stimulate, facilitate, provide insights and coordinate the change effort. The success of any change effort depends heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision makers within the organization. In addition, market researchers will see their data and insights increasingly positioned to bring about larger strategic changes in partnership with other key stake holders.
For example, in some companies today, it is worth noting, the head of marketing research is a member of a product-planning committee, a marketing-strategy committee, or even a company-wide long-range planning committee—clear evidence of top management’s growing realization that marketing-research people can make a vital contribution to planning decisions and marketing strategies. This future role of strategic leader is admittedly aspirational. However, to increase our value in the organization, we feel it is important to nurture an ambitious self-identity and stretch ourselves to grow into that identity.
Market Research Predictions & Implications:
Given the shift from order takers that collect data to strategic leaders with organizations, there are several implications to consider:
· Consider that research teams will increasingly be expected to lead stakeholders in identifying specific actions and holding the them accountable for taking those actions.
· Research will be used more broadly and uniquely with organizations to diagnose and define challenges more accurately, test out potential solutions, and illuminate strategy.
· In addition, research teams may find themselves spending less time on backward-looking measurement programs (e.g. longitudinal tracking), and more time on forward-looking decisions with methodologies that use agile frameworks to put research implications into action quicker.
· More and more leading companies will be using research to guide transformational decision making, and the market researcher will become a strategic catalyst for organizational change.
· Market researchers will not only need to be proficient in research skills, but proficient in the areas of organizational behavior, strategic consulting, and change management.
• Research (r)evolutions 2012 Consortium, Vivisum Partners Publication
• Research (r)evolutions 2014 Consortium, Vivisum Partners Publication