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Thursday, 24 April 2014

The spark of an idea

A creative approach to problem-solving is necessary for surviving in a harsh environment – and the same is true for research, says Level 3 bushcraft leader Jeremy Rix.

Have you ever played one of those warm-up games at the start of a workshop? One of my favourites is to ask people to tell the group something about them that no-one else in the room knows. If I’m playing that game, I tell people that I am a qualified bushcraft leader (Level 3 NCFE).

I spent eight days in the middle of the Sussex woodland being tested on my skills and knowledge of a range of subjects, from how to avoid and recognise the symptoms of hypothermia, through to fire-building, making water safe to drink and tracking animals.

“While clients and colleagues have their heads down focusing on doing what needs to be done to keep their area of business ticking over, insight professionals should have more room for free thinking”

All useful stuff, of course. But you might be surprised to discover that the twin essentials of bushcraft - knowledge of your environment and creative-problem solving - come in quite handy when it comes to the day job: insight delivery and management.

The current business environment is harsh and there are plenty of examples of businesses struggling to survive: HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters, to name just a few. Businesses fail - or fail to thrive - because they don’t anticipate and adapt; because they aren’t good at reading the environment and using creative thinking to change what they are, what they offer and how they deliver to meet customers’ changing needs.

Knowledge is important. But it isn’t enough just to observe and listen. Like our bush-dwelling ancestors, we have to assess the landscape for insights which will lead to ideas, which in turn will create opportunity. We have to use our creativity to challenge the accepted way of doing things.

As insight professionals, it’s more important than ever that we take on this role. We are the ones that are meant to have our eyes and ears open to how the world outside is changing. While clients and colleagues have their heads down focusing on doing what needs to be done to keep their area of business ticking over, insight professionals should have more room for free thinking, so we can recognise the signs, signal the opportunities and use every ounce of our creativity to influence a business that may be unable or unwilling to listen.

Insight management is a role with (often hidden) creative depths. In my years spent playing workshop warm-up games, I’ve met amateur musicians, writers, artists, chefs, photographers… you name it. Rather than hiding those talents, we should be bringing them to the fore. Creativity is the most important quality an insight professional can have.

Jeremy Rix is founder and chief listener at Oko. He’s online at www.engageoko.com. Rix is presenting a workshop to co-create the future of research at MRS Annual Conference on 19 March. More details at www.mrsannualconference.com

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