I appreciate that we are once again in the GRIT 50 Most Innovative Research Agencies. Innovation has always been important to me and so I am quite gratified when I see our efforts being recognized. What I don't know is how people are defining innovation.
I think as an industry we sometimes label things as innovative that are not while failing to recognize some things that are genuinely innovative. In my view, innovation requires that we provide something of value that wasn't available before. Anything short of that may be 'interesting' but not 'innovative'.
I would put things like neuroscience or most AI into the "interesting" category. There is a lot of potential but so far little so show in terms of tangible benefits. Over the years at TRC we've had many ideas that showed promise, but ultimately didn't prove out (my favorite being "Conjoint Poker"). Ultimately it is the nature of innovation that some things will never leave the drawing board or 'laboratory', but without them there would be no innovation.
On the other side, I think ideas that save time and money are often not viewed as innovative unless they involve something totally new. I disagree. If I can figure out a way to do the same process faster and/or cheaper then I'm innovating. It may not look flashy, but if it allows clients to do something they couldn't otherwise do it is innovation.
Of course, there are innovative ideas that don't save time or money. For example, if neuroscience proves out it could provide insights that would be impossible to gather today...that clearly is innovative.
A good example of how innovation works is our Idea Mill™ product. We wanted to find a way to generate and evaluate ideas quickly and inexpensively.
We started with Smart Incentives™ because we knew that incentive aligned methods generated higher quality ideas. We created the technology that allowed us to take ideas from one respondent and show them to another in real time without human intervention...thus allowing us to crowd source the ideas. To make the evaluation efficient and engaging we adopted a mini-tournament approach (having seen how much our Bracket™ Method improved on Max-Diff).
From there we ran a series of tests. Was it better to do the evaluation first or gather ideas first? How many ideas could they evaluate? Which ideas should they evaluate? What else should we be asking? Many of our assumptions proved to be wrong and only through ongoing testing were we able to create the final product. While all of these efforts were "interesting" it was only the end product that was in my view "innovative" and only the end product that went to market.
Rich brings a passion for quantitative data and the use of choice to understand consumer behavior to his blog entries. His unique perspective has allowed him to muse on subjects as far afield as Dinosaurs and advanced technology with insight into what each can teach us about doing better research.