The Technology Trap


Don’t get caught out thinking it’s all about the gadgets

When I was in high school I had a careers councillor who was fond of saying that half of us would end up in jobs that didn’t even exist yet. At the time I shrugged this off, but she ended up being right. I started my career in market research as an online community moderator; a role that certainly didn’t exist in 1999.

To date I’ve worked in research roles at three agencies and a bank. In these roles I’ve developed the technical skills of research such as questionnaire design, report writing and data analysis. I’ve also learned general skills in communication, leadership and persuasion. When I reflect on the biggest challenges I’ve had learning to be a researcher, applying the technology in my job has been the least of my concerns.

Me and you and the digital natives

In generational terms, I’m a millennial. I grew up in the digital era. Today’s Gen Z’s are true digital natives. They’ve known nothing else. Technology invisibly integrates into our lives; we learn it quickly, use it innately and discard of it with indifference when it’s no longer relevant.

The technological aspects of our roles will likely remain the least challenging part of our jobs.
If you’re a young researcher like me you’ll be reading industry publications, attending conferences and subscribing to market research blogs. And if you’re like me you’ll also have noticed the dominant discourse around technology in our industry. The conversation has been framed around technology as something to harness, to conquer, and to keep up with.

Don’t be misled by the emphasis on this. The technological aspects of our roles will likely remain the least challenging part of our jobs.

Technology doesn’t guarantee success


Whilst we have new technologies, techniques and methodologies it’s not about those things. In 1984 if Coca Cola had been able to use new research technologies like social media or online communities would we still have gotten New Coke? Kraft had most of these technologies available to them in 2009 and we still got iSnack 2.0.

If you‘re a young researcher and you feel you deserve a promotion or to take that next step, it won’t be because you know how to build an online community or field a mobile study. It will be because you would have started to learn the most important thing; understanding human behaviour and how to apply this to fulfil client needs.

I have no doubt in your career you’ll apply new tools, ever-changing techniques and still to be invented technologies. But these are utilitarian issues – like having to choose to use a knife and fork or chopsticks at a fusion restaurant.

The ultimate goal of market research is understanding people. And that hasn’t changed since the days of Mr. Gallup running around with his clipboard knocking on doors.


Author: Teri Nolan

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