FEATURE31 December 2019

Preview 2020: skills and talents

AI Data analytics Features Trends

What do market researchers need to be better at their jobs and improve their skills? Our industry contributors give their suggestions

Stephan Shakespeare, co-founder and chief executive, YouGov
AI and machine learning mean data scientists will become ever more important as we work with much larger and more complex data sets. Two big areas for us rely on the skills of our data scientists.

YouGov Signal aggregates digital and social data, applying complex machine learning, text analysis and competitive benchmarking, to make sense of and contextualise online sentiment and conversation. Our political MRP modelling uses modern machine learning techniques to fit complex models that can detect local differences and trends in attitudes and behaviours.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
Data journalism, data science, analytics, strategy consulting.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
Ensuring our people are confident, mentally resilient and knowledgeable will always be vital. That’s our responsibility.

Annie Pettit
Researchers will need to understand data manipulation, and I don’t mean using Excel files. They’ll need to understand programming and statistical languages well enough to have informed conversations with the experts. And if they want to progress career-wise, they’ll need to become those experts themselves.

Second, they’ll need to understand human beings as irrational, biased, unreliable and emotional creatures.

Crawford Hollingworth, co-founder, The Behavioural Architects
I am going to quote what Daniel Read, a professor of behavioural economics at Warwick Business School, said about what is needed from a behavioural economist: psychological intuitions, you must feel the pushes and pulls of your own motives and recognise them in others; quirkiness, if human motivation was simple, we would not need behavioural economics; creativity, good research requires as much creative thinking as good art or good food; training, you need to be at least mediocre as an economist, a psychologist, and a statistician, and for one of these you must be outstanding.

And critically, in an era where everything needs to be done at lightning speed, it is essential for people to be able to take the time to deeply, critically assess the information we’ve gathered.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Really, really, really listening to people. As we fall ever further into our own filter bubbles it’s much harder to get into other people’s worlds, and therefore ever more important that we check our own beliefs, biases and values and make sure that we’re not projecting onto other people. As researchers we have a real responsibility to bring a voice to those who aren’t otherwise heard, and it’s critical we let that voice shine through.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society
The work of the Delphi Group and the Senior Client Counsel is focused on developing skills and talents most vital to the industry. These are: telling stories and manage stakeholders; data analytics; business acumen and agility.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
We will always need curious people with great communication skills. Social scientists, behavioural scientists and data scientists will be increasingly in demand.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Resilience, perseverance, tenacity, stoicism, all the core skills.

Laura Ratcliffe, managing director, Flamingo 
Empathy is going to be most crucial. A deeper, more holistic understanding of people is the only way we will be able to make better sense of data, be better researchers and ultimately better client leaders.  

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
The mainly innate ones that cannot be taught but can be championed and used as a basis for recruiting – intuition, imagination and creativity. Everything else is a bonus.

Ryan Howard, director, advanced analytics, Simpson Carpenter
We need digital mavens, data scientists, engineers and developers. These skillsets are a source of growth and differentiation as cloud software continues to bite down. We have lost a generation of analysts to the data science revolution. Though there is a glut of machine learning enthusiasts about, few are capable, curious and passionate about working creatively to solve the knottier and less glamorous data munging problems, the kind that sit behind both our remedial daily dealings and most innovative solutions.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
Really understanding what’s going on client side, talking the language of marketers, helping to plug gaps when the internal research department need us to.

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Watermelon
I spoke and wrote recently about the importance of inspiring confidence; our role as influencers is critically important if we are to succeed in what we do, and this is driven by knowledge, belief in ourselves and empathy with others. I think if this can be coupled with thinking and research that pushes boundaries and is focused on change and unlocking commercial success for our clients, then we will continue to make a difference and be an industry that thrives.