The latest trend we’re seeing in market research is an increasing push to be more innovative. The market research community usually defines innovation as methodological innovation. In many cases these ‘innovative methods’ are intended to help researchers observe customers in their natural environment. However, when asked, most Research (R)evolutions members feel that they do not innovate very well and are somewhat behind the curve. It is often skepticism about the value of innovative methods that causes researchers to hesitate to adopt innovative methods. First and foremost, if you are in the majority of researchers who feel that they are not innovative enough, know that you’re not alone. Stop feeling guilty for not being innovative enough. And perhaps pat yourself on the back – your hesitations in not adopting these ‘innovative methods’ may be quite well-founded.

There are a few factors driving this skepticism:

– Higher risk in investing in methods with unproven outcomes

– Privacy concerns when experimenting with new and unfamiliar methods

– May encourage passive observation, which leads to less alignment with specific business questions.

The question is not ‘what’s innovative?’ For most researchers, the barrier to adopting innovative methods is not lack of awareness. The real barrier to innovation is a healthy skepticism about unproven methods. The real question is, how do we create space for innovation? Space for innovation would be a low-risk environment where we can experiment with new methods and become comfortable with them before rolling them out for widespread use.

Research (R)evolutions members shared several ideas for creating space:

– Combine innovative and traditional methods

– Ask for a free sample. If vendors want you to embrace something new, you should get a test drive before you buy the car.

– Find the right project. Identify a lower risk, lower urgency project. Or create your own project as a proof of concept.

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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