By Arindam Mohanty

The world is changing, and the gravity and quantum of change is not always easy to predict or understand.

This is a recurrent thought-loop, one that makes me wonder about my own life, both personal and professional (the lines blur here, as any market researcher will tell you). While the machinations of one’s personal life are best left to a personal blog, I want to take a moment to attempt making sense of what this ‘change’ means professionally.

Most of us in the market research industry have been doing a fair bit of soul searching over the last couple of years, given tectonic shifts in culture, society and business: Who are we? Why do we exist? Are we relevant in our current form? How much should we change, if at all, and in what direction? These are questions, conversations and debates alive and kicking in most organisations around the world that seek to demystify a world that feels like a constantly evolving Rubik’s cube. We not only need to stay afloat in arguably troubled times but also, really make a difference to the businesses we engage with and indeed people’s lives. And while the world has been changing quite rapidly in the last century, this most recent phase of change has been manic and at warp-speed. Even unbridled!

I believe one of the biggest challenges of (the remainder of) this decade will be to reorient and recraft our role as researchers, since we are no longer the sole and exclusive custodians of consumer data, qualitative or quantitative. While the gathering and processing of this data is still relevant, the time has perhaps come for us to don a new role – that of assimilating the sources of data around us – big and small – and start putting things into perspective. Perspective is, I believe, what our clients want and is what is inherent in us. And this will probably come to define us as the professional de-mystifiers of the world around us.

Demystifying the world will perhaps mean that the pool of people we engage with will expand – not just businesses but non-profits, policy research, government-led efforts, communities etc. will all start tapping into our collective experience, intuition and intelligence – provided we are ready and equipped to deliver our perspective in a manner that is well understood and with maximum, decisive impact.

Which brings one to the art of storytelling. The brightest and sharpest of us often fail to put forward our perspectives in a manner that works (clear, impactful and eye-opening). Perhaps more critically, we often fail to captivate our audiences in how we deliver our stories. Our best intentions remain just that, while our hard work finds its undue place in the dusty corners of a folder in someone’s computer – the epic tragedy that befalls much of our work today!

Without honing the art of storytelling in our own unique ways towards clear impact, we are indeed walking into a minefield. The question therefore is how we ought to equip ourselves to tell amazing stories that have the power to transform thought, mindsets and businesses.

In our constant endeavour to create value in the larger research and strategic brand consulting eco-system, the Global Qualitative Conference 2016 seeks to bring together researchers from the world over, and share inspiring examples of story-telling that have created impact. It is critical that these examples are shared and learnt from, as they serve testimony to the added value that we as an industry can create for our Clients. From a non-profit that sought to understand the needs of the differentially abled better, how consumer communities help us understand the new terms of engagement to how the iconic Star Wars series can inspire qualitative research, this year’s conference gives us many an example of intelligent story-telling that has made decisive impact – on people’s minds, on the journeys of brands and, indeed, the researchers themselves. Inspiring story-tellers from the world of cinema and non-profit organisations too are part of what promises to be a delightful experience.

The common thread through these eclectic examples is how the art of story-telling is not just one of delivery but rather, is the force behind the engineering and design of research. It’s a philosophy of research, with each agency or team crafting its own take on intelligent story-telling and ultimately, translating analysis into memorable and impactful insights.

The last few months have been exciting, for I have learnt so much from what our colleagues across the world have been working towards. While it was no mean task to identify the line-up for the programme, I cannot overstate how inspiring the entries for this year’s conference are. It gives one immense confidence in our industry as a researcher in the initial days of one’s career, that we are slowly but surely rising to the challenge of negotiating an uncertain world, taking bold decisions and chances. This is significant and note-worthy – for we know only too well the many times we have thought of something unprecedented, only to hold back for reasons that are, unfortunately, a reality we also have to contend with.

But I’m glad that us modern-day story-tellers are introspecting and reimagining our roles– a long-term endeavour that is, I believe, the result of ingenuity in an uncertain and unforgiving climate. Fresh thinking is what is going to begin and define the new journeys of market researchers.

I wish all speakers the very best for the presentations in Berlin – and look forward to seeing everybody there!

Arindam Mohanty, The Third Eye, Programme Committee member of ESOMAR Global Qualitative 2016

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