Beyond Black Belt and the Art of Continuous Improvement

First Degree Black BeltAfter 12 weeks of grueling work, I recently tested and was awarded my first degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. My sensei likes to remind us that becoming a black belt is just another step in the journey and continuing on is just as important as achieving that initial milestone.

“Continuous Improvement” isn’t just a buzz phrase in Martial Arts, it’s a mantra. No matter how experienced you are there is always something you can improve–whether it’s your stances (toe/heel alignment!), your blocks and punches, or learning a new form. I feel I have vastly improved from where I was 15 months ago when I first earned my black belt,  and I am excited to keep up my journey–even though my next advancement is at least two years away.

How does this relate to the world of Market Research? If we #MRX practitioners do not continuously improve and innovate, new technologies and ‘paradigm shifts’ will overtake us and we will be left behind. The days of yearly tracking studies, asking respondents to think about their past purchases, and clients who rely on us to do all their market research are fading away. DIY surveys, communities, polls, real-time transactional data (#bigdata) are all here NOW. We can either embrace them and learn how to harness them, or we can be left by the wayside.

Like continuously improving in Kenpo, I plan to keep updating and practicing new market research methods.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I keep thinking my first post should be something erudite about market research and how it can make companies more strategic…

But, after spending much of my summer designing and coding my new web site in WordPress, I feel that experience deserves some discussion. And, of course, there is some tie-in to my market research business…otherwise would it really belong in my company blog?

Learning WordPress has been one of the more satisfying and humbling experiences of my career to date. And, by no means, am I an expert in WP….far, far from it.

And, I’m no great expert at statistics either.

So, what have I learned from the experience that can apply to both web sites and market research?

  1. “Secondary research”: Learn from others who have been there before, see what information is out there that you can apply to your own business, and finally, see where the holes are that you need to fill in and customize for your business. I looked a lots of other web sites to see what I thought worked and didn’t work as well as different platforms/themes I could choose as a basis for my site.
  2. Read, read, read: I picked up a couple of books on WordPress and web site design which have been great reference. In addition, the WP Codex and support forum have been invaluable for both basic information, as well as solving issues that have cropped up. As for market research, I own a few handy, dandy reference books on the general topic, statistics and, of course, Michael Porter’s marketing books. In addition, if you look to the right on this page, there are links to some of the cool blogs out there–both market research and business related that I like to read.
  3. 80% is OK: Is my site done? Not yet–I’m still having trouble figuring out how to change a font, but rather than hold up the site for who knows how many days debugging it, we’ll let it go…for now. Same idea with your market research. It’s ok to get 80% of the information you need to make a smart decision because you can’t always anticipate every possible thing you want to ask your customers. Save it for your next survey, focus group, or conversation with your customers. But, never ever cut corners on your data integrity–that’s one area where 80% is not good enough.

And, of course, remember what you are trying to accomplish–whether it be a new, social-media friendly web site, or a survey about your new product offering–you will get there in the end.

All in all, not a bad way to spend my summer.

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