The Importance of Institutional Intellect

Intellect : The ability to learn and reason; the capacity for knowledge and understanding; the ability to think abstractly or profoundly.

The future of market research according to the pundits

intellect 2I like to be an active member in our industry; I go to conferences and networking events, read our industry’s blogs and journal articles. I have even had the opportunity to share some of my own ideas at a few conferences.

Something I have noticed about the conversation in our industry is that there is a lot of talk about what we need to change and why we need to change, but not many people talking about how to actually do it. When I speak with others at these events it seems they share similar thoughts.

This concerns me because if the predictions are true, in a few years time I will be out of a job!

I wonder why it’s so difficult to make the changes we know we need. I think it’s because that when we get back to the office it is too easy to fall  into regular patterns of working and thoughts of change get set aside.

A tale of two agencies

I work in online communities. Two companies that I have worked for started in online communities in roughly the same year. They are both similar in size; they both serve similar types of clients, and offer similar products.

Yet one of the companies is much more innovative in attitude than the other. I’m not talking about a massive conglomerate that spends huge sums on R&D and has entire departments dedicated to innovation. This company cannot afford to risk thousands on experimental projects that may not work. So what do they do that puts them ahead in terms of innovative thinking?

Of course I’m talking about Latitude Insights, where I work now. Latitude has built systems into its business that are receptive to and encouraging of change.

Ideas are not enough

Innovation requires more than having an idea. Ideas need to be implemented to be worth anything. I believe this comes down to Institutional Intellect. More than just knowledge or expertise, Institutional Intellect is about every single person in the business understanding the principles that should guide their work.

It’s a bit like putting innovation into automatic instead of on manual

Here are three things Latitude has done to build its Institutional Intellect

Blue 1 OneEvery fortnight we have Insights Sessions. Anyone is able to present in these sessions on anything they like. In the past I have presented on areas I am particularly interested in – facial recognition technology in research, social media, community moderation techniques. I have heard others speak about using projective techniques in online communities, how to make quant reports more engaging and how to think creatively.

These sessions do more than share knowledge. When we have these sessions I feel accomplished as an individual, empowered as an employee and I start to apply what I am learning to my specific role. Everyone else does the same thing. Instead of falling back into our regular work patterns, we change one thing. Then another. Then another. This has a transformative effect on what we bring to our individual projects.

Blue 1 TwoWe have done our own Internal Projects. One of the first things I ever worked on at Latitude was an iPhone study. At the time there wasn’t much about the iPhone so we thought we would do our own research to try and find out how people felt about it and if it was changing any of their behaviour.iphone
We often make these studies available to anyone interested – here’s the iPhone study.

Since that study we have also done a project on social media usage and using mobile for research. Everyone in the business works on these types of Internal Projects. This develops collegiality, builds shared practices, aligns actions and formalises a process of investigating and understanding trends.

Blue 1 ThreeLatitude has a user-centric approach to Technology Development. Our own staff work with developers to build research technologies instead of only relying on external suppliers. We have co-built our own communities and mobile app. We always start small with just the basics to get it right, and then add features over time as required.

This means that the actual end users of the technologies guide design. In turn, specifications are tailored to client and researcher needs. This could never happen without Institutional Intellect. Otherwise it would be impossible for staff to know exactly what was needed or to anticipate what may be needed in the future.

So as an industry, one of the ways we can initiate change is by thinking about innovation, not as a technology, but as a process. In the same way we have processes for sending out an invoice or setting up a new project, we can build processes to create the Institutional Intellect which fosters innovation.

Author: Teri Nolan

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