I was asked to be part of a panel at the MRS Impact 2016 earlier this week. In true researcher style myself and my fellow panelists were all very humble wondering why on earth people wanted to hear our stories.
It was while I was sat prepping, fingers wrapped tight around my Flat White, that it struck me, my story and journey to where I am today is based on my passion. And hearing my fellow panelists talk and Sinead Jefferies sum up this thought was confirmed.
Those of you who know me or anyone who has worked with me will know that I have a deep interest in culture and Africa in particular. A sabbatical in 2004 to East Africa sparked off a chain of events that has had a huge impact on my life, that much I know, what I didn’t realise fully until Wednesday was how much it had changed and shaped who I am as a researcher.
I left for Africa as a quant researcher in a large agency and am now a co-owner of a small boutique insight agency, Syren, who does far more qual and cultural insight than quant. And through this I have the opportunity to travel to amazing places and meet the most amazing people and learn. I love to learn. I am hungry and curious for information and insight into other peoples’ lives. And this curiosity leads to trying new approaches, to making the most of chance encounters when in market – to innovating on the fly.
I heard a lot of talk of ‘as an industry we must’ at the conference. Then saw a lot of tweets commenting how jaded this view of the ‘industry’ needing to take responsibility is. In order to grow and develop as an industry let people follow their passions because it is when they do that they will push boundaries and do and deliver great things. Rosa Bransky made a great point, we need to throw the project processes to the side and go with the flow. If you do that you approach the world with your eyes wide open and will observe and hear, hear properly what people are saying to you.
I feel fortunate to be a Partner in a small agency like Syren, particularly after the conference. There are just 3 of us full time. I am fortunate that Emma and Neil are equally as curious and passionate. Together we are fortunate to work with some amazing clients and brands that have allowed us to do things a little differently. That have paid as much attention to the insight from unofficial parts of the process as the actual focus group themselves. That have trusted Syren, a small agency, to deliver projects in far-reaching countries. That have allowed us to further our passions that have led to our annual female values trends work and the development of ‘Their Space’, an approach we’ll be talking more about over the next few weeks. And no it doesn’t have a funky app at its heart, it is based on best practice and doing what we do already, really well.
I realised on Wednesday that the ‘industry’ does have a lot to learn from those of us who have been brave. Innovation and keeping up with consumers is not an industry responsibility, it is ours as a set of individuals. With this in mind it is no wonder Unilever talk about boutique agencies and flexibility being the future. I know our clients value this. And I know the 3 of us here at Syren do too.