FEATURE1 August 2010

Hear me out: Let’s reject respondents with IQs below 120

Ever had an idea that you know is great, but everybody else thinks is crazy? Here is your chance to share it with the world of research. This month we hear from Doron Meyassed, managing director, communities at Promise.

What’s the big idea?
Respondents should have to pass an intelligence test before they’re allowed to take part in market research. In fact, for some types of projects, respondents should have to have an IQ of more than 120.

How would you achieve that?
Easy – the screener for the questionnaire resembles a Mensa challenge. And if you don’t hit 120 then it’s thank you, goodbye. Harsh? Yes. Intellectual snobbery? Not really. Just a case of choosing the right tools for the job – in certain circumstances.

“If you have a bunch of respondents with that kind of brain power and the expertise to manage them effectively, you could generate insights to surpass the expectations of even the most demanding client”

You don’t suffer fools gladly, then?
Sometimes you’re going to achieve more with a bunch of astrophysicists, musicologists and hedge fund managers than you are with a bunch of average Joes. Not that I care what these people do for a living, I just want them to have brains the size of planets. Firstly, if you have a bunch of respondents with that kind of brain power and the expertise to manage them effectively, you could generate insights to surpass the expectations of even the most demanding client. Secondly, if I was going to stake a multi-million pound strategy on the opinions of the man on the street, I’d want to know he had enough brain cells to give me a sensible answer.

But those average Joes are your customers.
True. When analysing the past and the present, this may be less relevant. But if you want to work with people that can help build the future, it’s not as crazy as it might sound to make above average intelligence a prerequisite – or at least to ensure you have a good number of minds of that calibre. New product development research is a case in point. Once upon a time, products were developed by an elite of men in white coats working in laboratories, or Soho media types sporting the obligatory ‘alternative’ style of the moment. Now many companies have rightly recognised that the best route to highly marketable new products and services is through co-creation – involving your target audience right up front. We’re certainly not advocating leaving innovation to the clever clogs with the right job titles – on the contrary. We’re just saying we should ensure that among the consumers you are co-creating with, you have at least a handful of brainiacs. Another advantage is that you can do away with some of the usual preambles and get straight down to business. People of high intelligence grasp problems quickly, make associations in their minds, connect with their own emotions and understand their own behaviours more than your average man on the street.

So where are you going to find these geniuses?
Good question – this might be the toughest brief your sample recruitment partner will ever see. Admittedly if you’re looking for participants to complete an online survey, your chances of success may be limited, but if you’re using a more collaborative technique such as co-creation, you might be in with a chance of getting the minds you’re after. This philosophy does, of course, have its limitations – experience has shown us that it’s actually diversity not uniformity that usually brings about breakthrough results – the mix of creative, analytical and kinaesthetic skills blended with a mix of cultures and socio-economic groups, and the interaction between all those people. So even if we don’t want a group made up entirely of Mensa members, as an industry we should be doing more to ensure that we are putting some of our clients’ questions to people of above average intelligence.

A panel of Nobel Prize winners would be handy.
I do like the idea of that, but I also know that without diversity we will struggle to push the boundaries. Still, it’s about time that we paid more attention to brain power when classifying respondents and not just social demographics.

Share your vision with us: robertb@researchmagazine.co.uk


12 years ago

To me, this is well-argued and I don't think it's even necessarily a provocative idea. It's not unusual in NPD research to screen for creative respondents (all those '12 uses of a housebrick' questions), so I don't see screening for IQ as radically different. The important thing with any screening criteria is to apply it appropriately, so we would never, I suggest, want an entire sample of atypical consumers. I can think of one project where the most important insight came from the fact that mass-market consumers found a particular functionality way too complicated, and a model specifically designed to overcome that was extremely successful. A sample limited to people smart enough to figure it out would never have generated that insight.

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12 years ago

I walk into a Library, I see those thousands of books written by all those supremely intelligent people and I wonder! With that amount of intelligence how come the world is in such a mess?

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12 years ago

Because they're not taking part in enough surveys?

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