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OPINION1 October 2009

Taking your eyes off the prize

The Research Magazine Awards judging panel has always had a hard time of it. We battle with a wealth of entries, the considerable force of persuasive evidence and the responsibility of knowing that our decisions really can give a fillip to a firm’s commercial success.

?The Research Magazine Awards judging panel has always had a hard time of it. We battle with a wealth of entries, the considerable force of persuasive evidence and the responsibility of knowing that our decisions really can give a fillip to a firm’s commercial success. Ask any previous award winner and they’ll tell you that business is often secured off the back of that little glass plinth.

This year’s entries gave the judging panel a real headache. In the Best Agency category we saw proof of companies battling hard against an unforgiving economy. Some agencies not only posted fair results but also managed to organically grow their business, which is some considerable achievement. In the Best New Agency category we were amazed at the number of firms brave enough to launch at all in the past twelve months. That takes real entrepreneurial courage. The Best Place to Work category received by far the most entries this year with firms eager to prove that, despite the squeeze, staff retention, motivation and development remained a priority.

However, one category proved a real concern for the judging panel. The Best Business Transformation Award has always been a popular one among entrants. Agencies are keen to show how their research work has stimulated profitable change throughout a client’s business. Winning this particular award is a much sought-after badge of honour. Unfortunately this year a lot fewer companies were up for the chase. As ever, we had a very strong showing from those who did enter this category but, by and large, there was a real absence of agencies and clients who seemed to want to tell their story.

You would have thought that this would be the perfect time to shout from the rooftops your ability to add value, boost productivity and transform business – those very skills that, for years, we’ve all been talking about honing.

The sobering truth may be that, at present, clients are not looking to transform their business. They are simply looking to ride out the storm, keep their house in order and survive. Perhaps remaking their business will have to wait until they have judged the post-recession landscape. And, perhaps, research agencies will have to wait until then in order to effect transformational change. In a cash-strapped economy it’s not only the volume of work that shrinks for researchers but also the creative scope of that work.

It appears that over the past year or so, research may not have been commissioned to its full potential. Which seems a shame. Yet another reason to hope for a speedy economic recovery.

@RESEARCH LIVE

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