At the NewMR Virtual Festival, Rosie Campbell of Campbell Keegan presented “The Case of the Dead Cat: Curiosity not to Blame”.

In this murder case, Curiosity is not a suspect but is in fact a hero of the tale! “What seems to be the problem? As researchers we are becoming overwhelmed: accessing is replacing understanding.” The Internet gives unprecedented access from our own keyboard, yet it comes at the price of understanding, robbing us of time to invest in analysis.

Malcoml Gladwell defended MR: “Market research, when it is observational or when it is interpretative, is profoundly useful. But those are two critical things. They require the intervention of the person conducting the research. They require the findings that are gathered, are considered, and thought about, and processed and interpreted.”

Ironically, just as researchers have started to become familiar with emotions, the emotions of consumers that is, we are looking to only science within our research, ignoring our own emotions. “Why have we fallen in love with accessing instead of understanding?” Rosie asked.

Here are some suspects in the murder of the analysis cat: Big Data and it’s sidekick High Speed. “We have so much data here… of course you can have it by Wednesday!” Another suspect in the untimely demise: Raw Data, which appears to offer authenticity and illustration, but leaves us being too literal. The final suspect: The God of E Things, which we worship at the altar of “all things virtual, technological and web-based”.

Rosie said, “Sometimes we lose our sense of judgement because data has been ‘democratically’ collected.” We need to ask ourselves the context, who is speaking and if everything is as it appears? Too often the conclusions from such research are “bleeding obvious!”

Rosie worries that “the human researcher brain with all its emotional overlays” will be replaced by analytics and gizmos. “Are we in danger of ‘thinking skill’ atrophy to be replaced with skimming, scanning, fast-reaction ‘clicking’ skills?”

We need to celebrate Curiosity – “the hunger to know what lies beneath, the judgements born of connection-making, the smart money combining ‘findings with creative leaps'”. Applied curiousity is an important skill for the researcher. The UK radio announcer Jonh Humphreys recently said, “If you’re geniunely curious, you always listen well.”

“The curiousity of cats has much to recommend it. It’s all about exploring limits and taking risks. They conduct experiments based on physics, logic and geography. They are the ultimate empirical researchers. And behavioral economics suggests we need more emperical research. Cats innately understand how to manage themselves and how to use ethnography to get the difficult stuff. They understand about restraint, the significance of observation, and they have also got ‘mirroring’ down to a fine art.”

Rosie concluded by encouraging us “to make friends with our own curiosity”:

  • Be both playful and meditative. “Empty yourself of yourself.”
  • Be wide minded and aware of context. “Context is super important in research, as we are becoming more and more aware.”
  • Be irrevent and hold hypthoses.
“For the dead analysis cat, we can revive it with a healthy dose of curiosity!”

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.