Understanding humans (and hipster beards)

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We live in a most exciting time. It is nice to think we are living in a time when the opinions of average and not so average people matter more than ever.

Awesome! we feel like those dudes who were into beards before any wannabe hipster dude jumped on the beardy bandwagon. For more than 12 years, we have built a successful business understanding humans. 

Global market research revenue is now sitting at around $44 Billion USD (or $58 Billion AUD). Many market research groups are experiencing continued strong growth and performance through innovation, leveraging technology, maintaining robust research fundamentals. Understanding humans has always been a big deal, particularly for the big end of town, and it is great to see it becoming  more common and trendy.

Without question how we understand humans is evolving. From online communities and mobile applications, to growth in a commitment to exploring new sources of insight such as social and big data. And, incorporating frameworks such as experimental design, behaviour change models and design sprints.

We are now better able to measure people as clicks, impressions and views. Artificial intelligence sounds way cool, but the question is still how it actually makes lives better. I fear such data can dehumanise those behind the click, no click or AI. And, from this strategies based on such data can treat humans as morons or even unemotional scientific specimen.

So, the conundrum is how to best deliver on the intentions of being more focused on customers, citizens and the broader population, beyond platitudes.

Poor quality research with unrepresentative samples of the actual population or sloppy questionnaire design, data collection, observations and analysis, will result in unreliable findings and direction. For example, overlooking fundamentals of sampling theory, statistical confidence intervals and considerations to allow robust, representative and replicable data.

Often short-cuts come from a lack of perceived value or perhaps ignorance and a belief that they are doing the right thing (scary), other times budget and available time are blamed for taking a lower cost route. However, much larger budgets in implementing user, customer, marketing and other strategies are implemented without accountability or any evidence. How important are customers?

Even when the fundamentals of good research design are understood, confirmation bias can skew thinking towards affirming existing perceptions, rather than critiquing hypothesis or looking for alternatives. Data is analysed internally with likely unintentional bias, to confirm preconceived views that match the status-quo, category norm.

Action is critical. Too often business and government is more focused on measuring and reporting management key performance indicators (such as likelihood to recommend — NPS), but with little if any actual change and improvement occurring.

Unlike a hipster beard, understanding humans is not just about looking good. Most importantly it is about doing good. And, reducing strategic wastage, ever improving products and services, and playing a key role in making the world better.

WANT MORE!? Read the full ‘Understanding Humans’