FEATURE1 April 2009

If there’s one thing I've learnt... Leanne Tomasevic

Career tips from research practitioners. This month: Leanne Tomasevic, senior partner at Truth Consulting

?The worst advice I got was… to never expect too much from consumers and always assume lower levels of intelligence. Actually, I don’t think it is the consumer who fails to meet with our expectations, but rather our inability to answer questions for ourselves, questions which should not be left to consumer decision-making. Sometimes the best way to understand behaviour is to examine consumer influences – what goes into making them think what they think – this way we are also able to manipulate the behaviour we wish to see.

Don’t underestimate… the clarity that transparency can bring. There is a tendency to hide our real questions and challenges from those we are researching, when actually sharing the challenge with our consumers can take us beyond mere objectivity to pushing boundaries and developing radical and creative solutions in partnership.

If I hadn’t been a researcher… in the commercial world I would have still been a researcher, but in academia, finishing off my PhD and indulging my nonsensical and unashamed love of ‘stuff’.

One moment in my career I will never forget… is covering an entire boardroom table with 420 chocolate biscuits prior to a debrief to my public sector client. They had recently been caught out in the press for spending tax payer’s money on unnecessary tea room luxuries.

Young researchers should… stop focusing on research itself. They should follow their cultural interests and use them to stimulate new ways to understand the world. Looking outside research is a much better way to understand what companies and brands should be doing on the inside. For example, I am using the principles of method acting to develop a new application for consumer immersion.

If this industry could only… remember that consumers are what Grant McCracken so beautifully defines (or more appropriately undefines) as an “aggregation of interests, connections, and contacts, tagged in several ways, linked in all directions, changing in real time… it’s  all hints and hunches, guesses and glimpses, shifting perspectives, tumbling assumptions.” The industry needs to reshape itself to build approaches and perspectives which are sensitive and empathetic to this ‘cloudy” consumer.

One day I hope… to write and paint my own cloudy consumer story.

My career… has taught me three key life lessons. If it feels wrong, it usually is wrong. New ideas always feel good. The truth always changes.