Published Apr 13, 2021
Phil Ahad, Chief Digital Officer
Today’s consumer sentiment evolves faster than ever before. The 2021 consumer’s needs and desires change at a pace yesterday’s businesses couldn’t fathom and businesses that don’t inform their strategies with consumer intelligence simply won’t stay relevant.
Research innovation has finally caught up to the new speed of the consumer landscape and we now see research enter its next phase of growth as research tech emerges as a new and critical segment. Research leaders who predicted the technology-led future of market research and embraced transformative methodologies and automation in their long-term strategy are now pushing the industry forward. What’s most exciting is that research is still ripe for innovation. However, as the nature of research evolves, so will the nature of the work – and the teams who build these tools.
The emergence of research tech demands a new and specific skillset to align with the industry’s innovative trajectory. Teams must reflect the goal of research tech: to build tools that take the heavy lift-off researchers and decision-makers. To build something valuable, you must understand why and how it delivers value and the next generation of research tech innovators will require expert research experience alongside technology vision. Research tech innovation teams must have a dynamic duality of research and technology skills, as well as a deep understanding of how researchers and programmers do their job to build the best product.
Technology expertise and a drive for innovation rounds out the ideal research tech team. Technology and product experts have an eye for critical evaluation. They can evaluate the processes and workflows researchers use and identify what they are trying to accomplish – then rethink the flow to optimize it. Technology experts have a knack for breaking things to build them better and the ideal team must be forward-thinking and constantly seek better ways to do things instead of recreating what has already been done in a “new” platform.
At the heart of innovation are diversity and agility. It’s crucial to build a research tech team with a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking. Don’t seek team members that think like you. Don’t look for a best friend. Building a team full of like-minded individuals can stifle innovation. If your team all see the world the same way, it will produce ideas that are too niche and don’t push boundaries. Instead, look for people who are different than you and your other team members. Great ideas are born and iterated in those differences. Look for team members who have the same passion and goal to create value. And remember, they must be right for your company but your company must also be right for them. Be sure to clearly communicate your team’s working style and shared vision and ensure they align. Never underestimate the power of creative individuals with diverse skills and shared vision.
Because research tech movies so quickly, your team must also be ready and willing to learn new skills. Always encourage your team to try and develop new skills. If your team can take expertise from one sector and apply it to a new sector enthusiastically, you’ve built an agile team – and one that will be resilient and successful long term.
So you’ve built an all-star team of innovative research and technology experts. Now you need to establish a cohesive culture. Encouraging a culture of creativity is core to tech innovation but is far from easy. Cultivating a distinct culture is simpler with a small team but as you scale it’s difficult to make hundreds of people feel they have a voice in the process. Build a culture that allows everyone on your team to feel ownership in the shared vision. Give pieces or aspects of the technology stack to teams or individuals. Never stop striving to give every individual some piece of ownership, even if it’s small. Empower your team and always prioritize the shared success of the group. When you encourage ownership, you create a culture of inclusivity and buy-in. If everyone feels they are working toward the same goal and are empowered to be creative with their piece of the goal, you get a dynamic and forward-looking output.
Other industries are now learning what researchers have known for years: that research plays a critical role in business strategy. As leaders in every industry rely more on research insights, research tech innovation is front-of-mind – and still has a thrilling opportunity to further evolve. Research is still behind other industries from a technology perspective, especially in emerging tech like predictive modeling. For myself and many others, there’s an exciting and daunting opportunity to continue disrupting and accomplishing tech innovation. It’s clear that companies need to invest now in strong R&D teams to keep pace with the industry. They need to recognize tomorrow’s innovation team has new strengths and must adjust the way they build and manage their team to match. To actualize the significant opportunity for research tech, they must assemble a team with a dynamic skill set based in both research and technology and instill a culture of creativity with agility and innovation at the core.