Kristin Luck

Tim Ferriss, is the poster child for life hacking with books like the Four Hour Work Week, the Four Hour Body and a myriad of other titles likely in the works. Tim’s concept revolves around cutting back on the time you spend on mundane tasks so you can get on with the business of doing things you actually enjoy in life. Which for most of us, are things that don’t involve extra time in the office or the gym … or cooking fish in a bag in your hotel room sink – yes, this is actually one of Tim’s time saving tips from his latest book “The Four Hour Chef”.

In my last post I mentioned recently meeting Pravin Shekar of Krea. I was so impacted by his talk at the AMSRS conference about the concept of jugaad that I invited him to sit on an emerging markets panel I recently hosted at IIR’s The Market Research Event. Jugaad (also sometimes referred to as jugarh or jugard) is a South East Asian term applied to a creative or innovative idea providing a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing a problem. Jugaad literally means an improvised arrangement or work-around, which has to be used because of lack of resources). In essence, jugaad is THE mack-daddy of hacks. It’s a hack that happens when you have no other way of getting things done and it’s when some of the most beautiful creativity emerges. Look up “jugaad” or “life hack” on the internet and you’ll find no shortage of examples, from washing machines repurposed as mixers for Lassi to using binder clips to fix broken keyboard feet.

What’s interesting about life hacking is that I’ve rarely seen it translate to our time spent in the office – which is where most of us spend the bulk of our days. Around the world, we’re spending more time at our desks or tethered to our laptops and phones than ever before. Rather than repurpose or redesign something to accelerate business performance or create new products, we seem set on repeating the same processes and systems. Why? Because it’s easy. When we have unlimited resources at our disposal, as most of us do, comparatively, creativity is ultimately stunted. And this, as researchers, is the world most of us live in.

Most of the new, truly innovative products and solutions we see in our industry today have come by way of startups, who, in general, are the most resource constrained (and thus perhaps some of the more creative?) businesses around. They’ve also come from industry outsiders. Dooblo, the company behind tablet survey software used heavily in emerging markets by some of the biggest players in the industry (Ipsos, Millward Brown, etc) was started as a mobile development firm by two industry outsiders in Israel. RIWI was the winner of IIEX’s Innovation Idea Exchange in 2013 for the best and new disruptive technology. RIWI’s leadership team, comprised primarily of researchers and technologists from outside our industry, developed RDIT (Random Domain Intercept Technology) solution that is taking the industry by storm. RIWI’s data advisory team is comprised of top minds OUTSIDE of the market research industry.

I’ve mentioned Lenny Murphy and his IIEX competition in previous posts. Lenny’s getting another mention because he’s doing our industry a huge service by giving startups and entrepreneurs the opportunity to get their innovative ideas in front of research buyers. Even in this age of social media and connectedness, it’s still tough to get your new idea noticed when you’re challenged by capital constraints. Lenny has created a platform and a voice where none existed before. Voting is currently open for the next round of IIEX awards and I’m looking forward to seeing which new ideas rise to the top. There are nearly 20 new companies on this year’s list that are looking to unseat traditional research suppliers and disrupt our industry.

So where does that leave the rest of us? How do we hack our traditional businesses to create new products and services? Do we need to go so far as to temporarily cut off access to our existing financial or technology resources so that we’re forced to work differently? Think differently?

At Decipher, we’re relatively small and nimble and we roll out new products and software releases at what many consider a break-neck pace. Some are client-driven requests, some are product upgrades and some are what we consider to be industry game changers – and by that I mean releases that really change the way our clients fundamentally gather or report on research insights. We’re all about the business hack. How do we take mundane or time-consuming business functions and all but eliminate them? How do we repurpose existing technologies to create high value products for our industry?

Here’s how we do it.

  1. Create time and space. Yes, I know…you don’t have any extra time. Make it. As business owners, we give ourselves time to work ON the business, not just “in” the business. There’s a distinct difference. This translates across the company. It’s tough to come up with new products and services when you’re trapped in the day-to-day grind of delivering on existing work. We actively carve out space and time for brainstorming and other collaborative activities that inspire innovation. Picasso said “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.”
  2. We won an Edison Award last year for our InSource program and were so inspired by the other award winners at the event that we’ve started our own internal “Innovator of the Month” award at Decipher. Employee innovation is key to rapid growth and encouraging that innovative spirit is paramount to our success. To that end, hiring a mix of talent from within as well as outside our industry drives new thinking. Outsiders bring in new thinking, insiders refine and expand on it from a research perspective. It’s challenging to innovate in isolation so outside thinking goes a long way to bring new ideas to the table.
  3. Seek out inspiration. I’ve said this before but one of the best ways to get those creative juices flowing is to jazz yourself up. Watch a TED Talk. Follow the latest tech startups or participate in a business chat on Twitter. Get outside and take a walk (or like my business partners, sign up for a brutal Crossfit class). Better yet, travel. Book a trip to a place you’ve never been. Get outside of your comfort zone. The key is to change your environment. Step away from your laptop, your tablet, your phone and re-engage with the world.

Regardless of the size of your company, your tenure in the industry or the amount of control you have over your day-to-day workflow, there are little life hacks you can make that create the opportunity for business hacks and innovation. Embrace jugaad.

biopic_kristinKristin Luck is President at Decipher.