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You might have enjoyed Avatar – or not. But it is a relevant image for our question:

“Why does Hollywood produce so many predictable, boring movies? Because they’re following a formula. And there’s nothing a formula-led mindset likes more than a nice, comfortable process. You can take refuge in a process. Those in business who are formula-led are always trying to find a way of processing creative thought. They want to streamline it. They want to make it more predictable.”

Sir John Hegarty said that and he should know, having run one of the most consistently creative and brilliant advertising agencies of the last 25 years.

But this search for a formula doesn’t stop with advertising; such businesses also want to apply formulae to their customers – or consumers as they’re fond of calling them – again reducing people to objects that can be categorised! Such businesses always stifle creativity, most of all their own, and are slow to respond to new cultures, behaviour and needs. As an insight worker you are doing neither yourself or your clients any favours if you stick to traditional formulae like focus groups, outsourcing venues and recruitment and working to a topic guide that is all about products and not about people.

You might produce a lot of quotes but none of them will set the imagination alight or take you into worlds you haven’t seen before. To do that you have to stand on nothing – or put another way – take risks and invent your process as you go, working with the needs and interests of the group and how goods and services fit into their lives. That is research.

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues