Finn Raben 

Watching the 2012 Olympics, I have been consistently struck by a couple of points, which I believe resonate very appropriately with one of the great topical debates within our industry.

Having won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, who could have foreseen that the British economy would enter into one of the more protracted periods of recession that the country has seen, during which time it needed to complete the construction of the Olympic venue(s), to the standards set by the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) acting on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Yet, despite the economic challenge, the venues were completed in time, to standard, and (I believe) on budget. The opening ceremony was extremely well received, and all the participating athletes have been very complimentary about the facilities, the accommodation and the organisation.

In this context, the “value” of the required standard has been plain for all to see, and has been appreciated by all who have touched it – either in person, or via todays global communication network.

When we encounter the challenge of making “traditional” standards meet the increasingly tight demands of cost, price and ultimately profit, we ought perhaps to consider the fact that keeping such standards (even in financially challenging times) have served the Olympic cause extremely well….can market research not do the same ?

The very concept of the Olympics – to be the best you can (naturally) be – has been well maintained and protected in 2012. The financial “lure” of winning by illegal means has now been further reduced by more stringent controls; thus the Olympics retains its unique attraction for all athletes … to be selected, to be allowed compete for, and to potentially win Olympic honours, remains an athlete’s ultimate goal.

While we may now wish to ignore or bypass it, market research has always had similar such ideals, in terms of ethical behaviour and standards…when we see how the attempts to bypass the Olympic standards have impacted upon those athletes who have tried, do we really think we would be a better industry if we got rid of our standards?

I have been lucky to have had consistent access to the BBC coverage of the Olympic games over the past three weeks … and not simply via the BBC. Due to the BBC’s wish to have as rich and diverse a commentary as possible – comprising Olympic athletes and champions from all four corners of the globe – I have been particularly struck by the fact that along my holiday travels in Europe, the BBC’s programming has not only been re-broadcast, but also integrated into all of the local broadcasting we have had access to, such that the local programming – if anything – has become even richer than that provided solely by the BBC – and I speak here for the Dutch, French and German programming that I have had the pleasure of watching.

Is this not a case of true “glocal” (global & local) impact?

I would hazard a guess that these Olympics will be remembered as having exceeded the standards set by Beijing – and Beijing was in itself a new benchmark.  Is there a lesson in here for the global MR industry?

Why cannot “traditional standards” work for the benefit of us all?

Why cannot we include a rich diversity of commentators, from all of the disciplines that our industry comprises? And is there not a benefit for global to marry with local, such that the sum of the two exceeds the value of any one component?

Working in collaboration for the constant improvement of our industry and for the mutual benefit of the provider and the user, is surely our on-going goal?

I think the Japanese call this constant change for the better kaizen … the Olympics have benefited from this philosophy every four years, can we?

Finn Raben is Director General at ESOMAR