OPINION19 February 2015

Dutch diary: IIeX Europe blog


Sitting on the train from Schiphol airport heading into Amsterdam, a piece of graffiti caught me eye. In big letters, against a bright pink background, the word ‘WHY’ was emblazoned across a building. I was feeling a definite sense of why-ness having caught a very early flight from London in order to attend the IIeX 2015 event.

My mood started to lift as I arrived at the Beurs van Berlage conference venue. The stunning 19th century church-like building is a former commodity exchange and as an environment, promised potential enlightenment.

Although IIeX is a relatively recent entrant into the conference market, it has become firmly established in the research calendar, with its mix of new technology, insight case studies and international speakers; plus some interesting diversions such as the IIeX Games.

During the morning Reg Baker’s session: Two Problems We Need to Solve, piqued my interest. Reg began by stating that as an industry research takes an enormous amount of time trashing itself. The focus however, should be about the opportunities rather than the problems. First up was the need for a different type of education for researchers in order to enable swift adoption and exploitation of new methods and technology. From Reg’s perspective, many researchers are trained by employers to do their job, as opposed to being given the context, i.e. answering the ‘why’. This means that when new technology comes along, researchers don’t have the foundation of understanding to draw from to determine how new technology fits into what they do and how it can be synthesised within their skill-set.

Reg’s view was that practitioners need to move away from the traditional mastery of one discipline and move towards an agile approach, becoming “master generalists”. In contrast, the second biggest challenge/opportunity is the privacy concerns of legislators and restraint that will be required by researchers with the opportunities that new technology offers.

As Reg said – and I agree – data privacy is complicated and it is easy to get it wrong, but people are increasingly concerned by the data activities of a whole host of different business sectors, including market research. As an industry we need to respond to this (more on this tomorrow when I report on a session I am contributing to based around this topic).

Reg concluded by highlighting the work by Simon Chadwick and his view of the three main types of researchers that will exist in the future: the polymath, the specialist and the business consultants – all individuals who will be able to answer the ‘why’.

As the day has progressed, I have heard about Whiskyology, the trends of the Z Generation and the tremors of the Scottish referendum. This diverse palette of sessions leaves me with a mix of take-aways. However as day one draws to a close, I am thinking of something I learnt in the Generation Z session – LOLOLOGY – which is the ideology of fun and neo-nonsense. Never heard of that phrase before, but I feel that Amsterdam’s nightlife might be able to deliver it perfectly…