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Creating A Culture Of Innovation Pays Off

Much has been written here and elsewhere about the need for market research to establish a culture of innovation in order to successfully transition to the next stage of our evolution as an industry. I have been fairly relentless in my urging of the industry to develop new business models, tools, and a value proposition that is reflective of the massive changes we're undergoing now. What I have not done is given examples of what type of culture may best support that initiative. It's time for that to change!

Innovation

 

Much has been written here and elsewhere about the need for market research to establish a culture of innovation in order to successfully transition to the next stage of our evolution as an industry. I have been fairly relentless in my urging of the industry to develop new business models, tools, and a value proposition that is reflective of the massive changes we’re undergoing now. What I have not done is given examples of what type of culture may best support that initiative. It’s time for that to change!

In my recent interviews with Matt Kleinschmit of Vision Critical and Greg Heist of Gongos Research we touched upon this idea, and in some of my previous posts on BrainJuicer and human capital in general a few ideas were tossed around, but I don’t think I have showcased a company in the market research industry that has built a culture that is designed solely to facilitate creative innovation. Well, as luck would have it about two weeks ago I was introduced to a company that is the perfect example of a firm that has thrown the traditional way of doing things out the window and has embraced cultural experimentation as the norm. Meet eCGlobalPanel.

eCGlobalPanel emerged as the technology and panel division of eCMetrics, a social media consulting agency. Since 2006, eCGlobalPanel has operated independently, serving Top 25 Market Research Agencies, as well as becoming a leading technology and consumer knowledge solutions provider for the Latin American region. That only tells part of the story though; this is a company that takes fostering a culture of innovation seriously, so serious in fact that they were showcased on Brazilian TV as an example of a radical reinvention of traditional business models; Check it out:

 

Wow!

Now I’m not proposing that all MR companies install pools, video game lounges, and outside meeting rooms (although that sounds good to me!). What I am saying is that the leadership of eCGlobalPanels made a strategic decision to explore new ways of doing things and it is paying off for them.

Over the past few months I’ve gotten to know Adriana Rocha, Co-Founder and CEO of the company and she is someone who just “gets it”; she understands that the world has changed and that MR must change with it in order to stay relevant.  I spoke with Adriana last week and she shared some great information and insights with me about her take on where the industry is today, where it is going, and what her company is doing to change the game. My first question to her was on what her take was of the state of the industry and what issues were driving her to craft a culture of innovation.

MR Companies don’t compete anymore just with other MR Companies.  They compete in a huge information industry with different players and  new entrants.  New competitors include technology companies (eg: Oracle, IBM) ,  business consultancy firms such as KPMG, Deloitte, etc , and Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and  Twitter.  All of them are somehow offering marketing information, consumer insights and analytical services to brands and enterprises.  Other challenges, threats and opportunities MR Companies should take in consideration run the gamut from poor quality of data generated by non-representativeness of web panels and the commoditization of sample services  and global capabilities to broader changes produced by the information and communication revolution through explosion of social media platforms, universal access to technology (eg: mobile, computers) and how that has produced changes on consumers’ behavior and their relationship with brands. The Market Research industry should be literally reinvented to deal with these changes.

It is this reality that has motivated us to move to Salvador and build here an innovative environment where we could attract top talents in our region, stimulate creativity, productivity, and develop new products and technologies that could help shape the future of our industry.

It is all well and good to understand the challenges facing us, and it is wonderful to see a company responding to these changes, but next I asked what specifically is eCGlobal Panel doing from an offering standpoint? How are these beliefs being put into action?  Again, her answer was extraordinary:

eCGlobalPanel has launched a new integrated social media research platform that aims to create new experiences between consumers and market researchers. We know there is a new reality for marketing and market research, and the main force provoking those changes are the consumers themselves. The most natural way for our industry to evolve is to let consumers co-create and share their experiences with us in unique ways and to go beyond traditional surveys. eCGlobal’s goal is to connect consumers, engage them, and allow them to share their insights and experiences in more inherent and collaborative ways.

This new developed solution includes a range of environments and integrated applications, including the eCGlobal.com community that allows consumers to set their profiles and connect with other users according to their consumption experiences, life styles, and areas of interest. Researchers can also interact in various ways in the network, such as creating sponsored questions, opening discussion topics, or creating other community activities.

Other options of interacting include social media games such as Um Ou Outro (“One or the Other”)  where consumers can choose their preferred products and brands and see the preferences of others, as well as invite friends to participate, thus creating an amiable zone of interaction. Another branch of interaction for researchers is through eCKRM, a convenient technology platform designed to connect consumer knowledge and relationship management. Researchers can post activities, follow results, and have access to a growing knowledge base.

This project has been in the works for the past three years, and after launching in Brazil in January of this year, it will continue to expand into Latin America and the United States. Throughout 2011, the platform will continue evolving and will incorporate other features such as segmented communities and mobile applications. Our goal is to expand into other countries and achieve global research by 2012.

Double wow!

Regular readers know that I am a huge advocate of data aggregation and synthesis through multiple channels (social, mobile, surveys, qual, etc…), integration with client CRM and BI systems, co-creation methods, and the “gamification” of research. It sure sounds like eCGlobalPanel shares my passion and is well on their way to launching an integrated platform that incorporates all of these elements. And to think that the folks behind it did it in flip-flops while pool side in Salvador, Brazil just makes it that much more impressive!

To circle back around to the beginning of this post, eCGlobalPanel may be the only company I know of with a pool onsite, but Gongos has a basketball court in the middle of their office, BrainJuicer is renowned for their fun events such as the recent “Speak Easy” during the ARF, and the team at Vision Critical is made up of folks with very different backgrounds than most market research firms. Besides creating a culture of innovation they all share one other commonality; they are growing by leaps and bounds! Even during the recession each of these companies experienced phenomenal growth when the rest of the industry was fighting significant retraction.

I’d say the success of all of these companies, and especially of eCGlobalPanel since they are also housed and focused on an emerging market, is a strong testament to the power of building a creative and innovative culture as a core driver of business success. I think the rest of the industry has an awful lot of work to do to catch up, but thankfully we have some great examples right here in our own industry to follow!

By the way, all of the firms I’ve mentioned here, including Adriana from eCGlobalPanel, will be at the Technology Driven Market Research event may 2-3 in Chicago. If you have not planned to attend yet, perhaps you should reconsider and take advantage of the opportunity to learn about them first hand? Just a thought….

 

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10 Responses to “Creating A Culture Of Innovation Pays Off”

  1. Sheila Seles says:

    April 18th, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Lenny, thanks for another great post. It’s becoming apparent that we share the same passion for innovation in MR, and I’m glad that you’re pushing the industry to catch up with the times. Adriana Rocha clearly gets it, too. She hits the nail on the head saying that technology companies and Internet companies are all competing with MR now, and she’s totally right that the industry needs to reinvent itself to stay relevant. I’m curious how the true culture of innovation–beyond pools and basketball courts–has been integrated into corporate culture at the companies you mention. For those of us trying to create a culture of innovation, what are they keys? Is it giving employees time for independent projects (like Google does)? Is it hiring outside the traditional MR skill set? What can we do to make Rocha’s ideas scalable?

  2. Leonard Murphy says:

    April 18th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks Sheila, I’m glad that I’m not in this alone and have great folks like you (and the ARF) banging this drum with me!

    You’re right, innovation is not about pools or game breaks; I think those are simply indicators of a culture that values openness, empowerment, creativity and inspiration and it is those cultural values that stand out at each of the companies I mentioned in my post. Those are also attributes shared by companies like Pixar, Google, Apple, etc…

    I think it is in embracing those attributes and all that they entail that we can build cultures of innovation. The reality is that not every company can be a leader; business Darwinism means that a few firms will always be ahead of the curve. However, there is nothing stopping every company from trying to be the leader, right? And in order for that to happen we’ll all have to continually strive to reinvent our businesses and our industry.

  3. Betty Adamou says:

    April 19th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    VERY VERY VERY inspiring!

  4. Adriana Rocha says:

    April 19th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks Betty and Sheila for your comments!

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