“Curiosity, Insight & Revolution” : Our review of the MRS Insight 2016 conference

6th February 2017 11:22

This blog was writted by Alex McCluckie, Research Manager (pictured)

Curiosity, Insight and Revolution – the tagline from this year’s annual MRS conference and three words that, for me, both excited in the run up to the event and left me feeling pretty damn satisfied afterwards. Indeed as I layout below, Impact 2016 pretty much delivered along all three points and congratulations are needed all round for a great thought provoking two days.“Curiosity, Insight & Revolution” : Our review of the MRS Insight 2016 conference

Focusing on what it promised then, let’s take a deeper look at each pledge with my reflections thrown in along the way:

Curiosity– I was certainly curious throughout the sessions that I went to but not just for what they may have in store - even during the discussions I was wondering where we were going to be taken next, both during the presentations and the panels/debates. From an incredibly engaging look forward (although worryingly, not that far forward) with ‘Will ‘curious computers’ replace curious minds?’ we found that machines are far more advanced than we, as researchers, may like to admit. With Colin Strong leading the charge and asking “What is the role for market researchers?” only to be pegged back by Cat Wiles’ calming perspective, I was left feeling both amazed, alarmed and intrigued at just what the future has in store for market researchers, both of the more traditional and the more novel variety. This really was a standout session for me (a view seemingly shared judging by its winning of ‘best fringe contribution’) and whilst it didn’t settle the debate on whether the task of understanding human behaviour is outside the capability of computer technology, it left me even more curious than when I arrived – most certainly a good thing!

Insight– here we were treated to some inspirational stories of how research and the insight that it brings have helped to transform and improve lives in various domains, from the English classroom to driving innovative change in foreign conflict zones. There’s nothing better than hearing about how insight can and does support, promote and enable people from all walks of life. On day 2 we were also treated to some delightful examples of how observed and stated behaviour can differ – nothing new I grant you, but always entertaining to watch such discrepancies unfold during the lifespan of a research project. If observation wasn’t high on your list of methodological tools, it certainly was following the Technoanalysis session.

Revolution– and so to this final promise, that of upheaval and disruption. Here there were fantastic discussions about mashing various streams of data together to unearth real value for clients, introductions to new ways of looking at political polling (in response to the failures of GE2015) and again, the aforementioned (and potentially not too distant) takeover of machines for numerous research roles. From the conversations I had with attendees from the more traditional agencies out there, it was a real eye opener for them with plenty of takeaways to dwell on and get creative with – everything you’d want from two days out of the office!

And so, to summarise, Impact 2016 proved to be an all-round great event by the MRS and something that I think they should be commended for. I shall certainly be coming back for more!

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