I’m a regular research conference goer. For the most part the shows I’ve attended are pretty vanilla and go off as planned. A good speaker or two, some networking, a forced promotion here and there, sponsors on the hunt for business cards (guilty as charged), and mediocre lunch buffets. I learn something useful, meet and re-connect with some great people, and head off to the next one.
I was told before the Qualtrics Insight Summit that this event was different. Skeptical, I packed my bags (and skis) for Salt Lake. A soon as things kicked off, I realized this was not my father’s stodgy research conference. And it wasn’t the great swag that made me a believer. This conference had energy and passion. The data and insights talk track can at times be a sleepy one. But our profession, what we do, the value we have, and the hurdles we face came alive at the show through a mixture of unconventional presentation formats, entertainment, and engaging speakers.
Whenever myself or one of my colleagues gets back from a conference, two questions always ensue: How was it? What did you learn? In a word, it was refreshing. And, as you will see, the learnings were many and varied.
Here’s what I took away:
1) We all have our work issues, but perspective is a powerful asset. Having a bad day at the office took on a whole new meaning as I listened to Captain Phillips’ inspiring story of survival and triumph as he battled Somali Pirates. His tale of adversity came on the heels of a moving day-one presentation, interview session, and campaign launch centered around eradicating Cancer. It’s nice to be reminded that research problems as well as issues with co-workers and clients aren’t nearly as big when viewed through the right lens. And, if Captain Phillips can beat back pirates and individuals can fight Cancer so valiantly, don’t we all have what it takes to overcome our own sources of adversity?
2) Saying what you really think can make all the difference. Author Kim Scott introduced attendees to the idea of Radical Candor and how it can make or break the boss/employee relationship. Saying exactly what you think is not however as simple as blurting out the truth in any way, shape, or form. Radical Candor needs to be accompanied by giving a damn and guiding team members, not giving them orders. Without those ideas working in unison, you risk being just an a-hole. But, when you care and challenge people directly, magic can happen.
3) Pregnant turkeys can teach the value of getting behind the data. Stephen Dubner, author of Freakonomics, Superfeakonomics, and Think Like A Freak wore many hats at the show, including game show host. However, his talk on getting behind data and approaching problems differently stuck with me. In particular, his example which centered around this fun fact: most turkeys in the US are bred through artificial insemination. That data point piqued Dubner’s interest as he pondered what makes Turkeys different from similar farm animals that procreate the old fashioned way.
So he did some digging. As it happens, most US consumers prefer turkey breast meat. The fact that turkeys now have been bred to have large breasts renders them completely unable to procreate on their own (a bump into each other issue) – hence, the need for artificial insemination. Without the story behind that fact, it’s not nearly as sticky, relevant or clear. We can’t take things for face value, and should always keep digging until we know why.
4) Effecting change takes the Rider & the Elephant. Chip Heath, co-author of Switch, Made to Stick, and Decisive discussed how to create change – not an easy proposition. In his talk and in Switch, he cites University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt who likens our emotional side to an Elephant and our rational side to its Rider. The Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant that control is not a given. Thus appealing to both Rider and Elephant is key to making an impact and effecting change. In his talk, Chip gave some sterling examples of how that dual approach has played out and the unbelievable outcomes that result.
5) Great talent can beat back father time. Attendees were treated to a private concert featuring Steven Tyler and The Loving Mary Band. Tyler, of Aerosmith fame, is 67 years old. And whether you love his music, hate it or are just plain indifferent, what’s indisputable is that he hasn’t lost his touch. He can still sing and perform with the best of them. Inspiring and entertaining even if that’s not your thing.
6) The Insight Suite is pretty sweet. Move over research suite, the insight suite is here. Yes, Qualtrics released its new platform and it’s got all types of new features and functions to aide people in their market research, customer experience, and employee insight crusades. The functionality that really struck a chord with me is the ability to launch surveys right within an email, send SMS survey invites, and employ new coding features that help classify text as it comes in. Overall, a really nice next step for them and their customers.
7) It’s Barnaby’s world, we’re all just living in it. Barnaby, the office dog is, and will be for the foreseeable future, the star of the show. Apologies to Steven Tyler, but Barnaby was the biggest rock star in the hotel.
See you next year in Salt Lake.