Turn curiosity into your biggest strength: Transform your research with agile insights

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Posted Feb 15, 2024
Eliza Jacobs

In the fast-paced world of consumer insights, the term “agile research” is not just another industry buzzword. It represents a paradigm shift in how we approach gathering information, challenging traditional methodologies, and encouraging a more dynamic mindset. 

We recently hosted a webinar on agile research called “Turn curiosity into your biggest strength” Joining us were three experts: 

  • Kerry Sette, Vice President, Head of Consumer Insights & Research, Voya Financial
  • Josh Huling, Head of Strategy, Campbell Ewald
  • Marcus Cunha Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Business and MMR Program Director at the University of Georgia

During the webinar, our experts used their unique perspectives to discuss topics such as the future generation of researchers, the benefits of agile consumer insights, and finding the optimal balance for projects to stretch your time, money, and people power.

What does “agile” really mean?

Agile demands a shift in mindset, emphasizing the importance of consistently taking small, incremental steps toward a larger goal. When it comes to research, long gone are the days of extensive, time-consuming research reports that take months to create. The agile research mindset involves prioritizing actionable insights over perfection and recognizing the dynamics of today’s fast-paced landscapes. 

Marcus Cunha Jr. highlighted the essence of agile as a continuous adaptive incremental learning and testing. In a world where consumers are interconnected and trends emerge rapidly, the traditional approach of relying on a well-established hypothesis over a 4-6 month period may not be meaningful. The ability to adapt quickly and efficiently is the hallmark of an agile approach, allowing for real-time adjustments in response to changing industries, customer expectations, and dynamic competitors. 

The agile transformation journey

To shift towards a faster-paced mindset aligned with agile research, it’s important to acknowledge just how crucial this shift is in the dynamic insights landscape. Success in such an evolving industry hinges on being able to adapt to changes,  fast. Adapting to shorter timelines, surveys, and even attention spans while ensuring the reliability of survey results is crucial.

While transitioning to more agile methodologies may appear daunting, Kerry Sette of Voya Financial states that she always says “something is better than nothing.” and that “perfection is the enemy of good”. The pivotal aspect of having an agile research mindset lies in prioritizing incremental progress or “just enough, just in time” coupled with a commitment to ongoing improvement. 

Unexpected benefits to agile consumer insights

The adoption of agile consumer insights uncovered many unexpected benefits. The realization that agile methodologies had more use cases than anticipated was a common thread amongst panelists. Additionally, they realized that there was a shift towards real-time results becoming the new norm, leading clients to expect instant feedback every time. While agile has major advantages, it serves as a cautionary reminder that once agile is embraced, clients will begin to always expect it. 

Kerry emphasized the growing demand for real-time results, cautioning about the need to discern when and where an agile approach should be utilized. 

Challenges in the agile transformation journey

Embarking on the agile transformation journey presents some challenges, beyond just the initial adoption of a new technology. The main hurdle is changing cultural norms, mindsets, and work habits to align with a new agile approach. It takes time, a well-crafted management strategy and a decisive top-down initiative. Breaking away from the habit of producing “rear view” mirror studies and embracing ‘windshield’ studies that deliver groundbreaking insights quickly is crucial. Teams must switch their mindsets to prioritize value and actionable information over ornate reports in some cases. Josh emphasized that the foundational challenge lies in preparation, a defined process, templates, and a compelling narrative to get support from internal teams. 

Agile research in the education curriculum 

Students can’t be expected to think with an agility-first mindset if they are taught methods from 15 or 20 years ago. Knowing this, Marcus revamped his education curriculum, utilizing agile research methodologies and tools like aytm. He shifted the educational focus from traditional exams to hands-on experiential learning, with the introduction of ‘quick-fire challenges’ that immerse students in real-time data analysis, promoting quick thinking and adaptability. Marcus stressed the importance of moving away from outdated methodologies and actively involving students in real client projects for practical problem-solving. This approach helps ensure students are well-prepared to embrace agility when they tackle challenges outside the classroom. 

Agile research relies heavily on technology and the incoming generation of professionals has only ever been digital natives. At this level, they are set up for success by having lived and experienced technological changes and adaptation at a rapid rate. What may be lacking is making this mindset productive and harnessing this tenacity into problem-solving results. This is why Marcus emphasizes the significance of bringing real projects into the classroom.

Thanks for joining us!

We just went through a brief recap of some key points discussed in our latest webinar on agile research. For a deeper dive into these concepts, including additional insights from our experts, Kerry, Josh, and Marcus be sure to check out the full recording of the webinar.

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