Awards Showcase Research Industry Innovation

Part One: Disrupting Research-As-Usual

By Marc Dresner, IIR USA 

It’s that time of year again, research fans!

The Market Research Event (TMRE) has officially issued a call for nominations for two distinct awards honoring innovation in research:

The EXPLOR Award, sponsored by uSamp, recognizes breakthrough innovation in technology as applied to market research through a real-world case study competition.

 ‘ The Disruptive Innovator Award, sponsored by Next Gen Market Research (NGMR), recognizes companies and individuals that have demonstrated leadership as change agents and made significant contributions toward harnessing disruptive innovation to drive research industry progress.

That both awards celebrate innovation in an industry/profession with a relatively conservative legacy says quite a bit not only about the times in which we now work and live, but how far we’ve come so fast.

So much has changed in just the last decade, and I’m particularly excited to see what comes out of this year’s pool of nominations, because these awards are in some respects innovation barometers.

Hoping for an early read, I asked the respective sponsors of each award to answer a few questions for us. 

This post features responses from Tom Anderson, founder of NGMR, an online community and professional networking group for market researchers with more than 12,000 members centered on exploring innovative, emerging research technologies and techniques.

 Anderson is also founder and managing partner of Anderson Analytics LLC, a full-service market research consultancy specializing in combining advanced analytics and traditional methodologies with data and text mining.

For those who don’t know him as I do, Anderson is a bit of a maverick with a passion for bucking convention, so it’s not surprising that NGMR’s award’now in its second year’focuses on innovation as a disruptive force for positive change’

 Q: What’s the Disruptive Innovator Award all about?
 A: Times are changing. So the concept is to celebrate and encourage what I like to call ‘next generation’ thinking in research. We want to recognize innovation that challenges the status quo and pushes boundaries beyond ‘traditional’ market research’hence the title ‘Disruptive Innovation”and to also use this award to welcome new members into the research industry, which has historically been a pretty exclusive and conservative club. This includes methodologies and techniques from other, less traditional fields like data mining, text analytics, Web and social media analytics’really any potential knowledge stream or insight source that can help marketers and business people make better decisions in today’s world. So in a sense, the award was created to broaden how we define consumer/market research in order to keep pace with the times.

Q: What set the 2010 winners apart from the rest of the entrants?
 A: Last year was our first year out, so the ferocity of the competition caught us a bit off guard. In order to make the difficult decision of picking the winners, we decided to look beyond just how innovative someone was, and to focus on the second component of the award: disruption.

For example, on the client side, 3M won based on how they had leveraged DIY; not because the specific methodology used was that innovative, but rather their innovativeness in applying it to their organization. If the same model were to be adopted by other clients, it could have a really disruptive impact on our industry.

On the agency side, our second winner, Communispace, which really pioneered the use of online communities for research, had already taken a significant portion of research spending and encouraged many across the industry to look at how we engaged respondents and fans of products and brands differently.

Last year we also had two winners in the individual recognition category’Sean Conry of Technoes and AJ Johnson of Ipsos’who won not only because their methodology was interesting (mobile GPS data and visualization, etc.), but also because their collaboration focused on experimenting by combining various methodologies and software in novel ways.

Q: What surprised you the most about the submissions, in general, that you received for last year’s competition? Why? 
 A: I was surprised by the quality and quantity of nominations we received in just our first year out. That confirmed to me that the research industry is very much focused on and excited about change and attuned to the spirit of Next Gen Market Research.

That said, while we did receive a couple of nominations from companies that are outside traditional research’RapLeaf, for instance’I was surprised that there weren’t more of them. I think we could do a better job of attracting different types of providers with different perspectives and maybe less orthodox solutions.

Q: What themes/trends in research do you predict will be most prominently represented in this year’s submissions? And conversely, what do you expect to see less of this year?
 A: I hope and expect to see more nominations from disciplines like text analytics’a personal favorite’and various types of data mining from CRM to Web analytics. I would also imagine there may be some nominations from neuroscience and eye tracking, too.

But I would really love to see submissions from companies that don’t even view themselves as research firms. Marketing, advertising and PR firms, for instance, are all rushing to leverage various text, campaign and influence tracking technologies and they’re building their own methodologies around them as needed.

I would emphasize that we consider the basic methodological soundness of every technique and technology quite seriously in our deliberations. That’s a key strength in having such a diverse brain trust of expertise and experience on the NGMR Board.

Q: What advice do you have for prospective entrants this year?
A: Some nominations submitted last year were quite lengthy. You should be able to state why you are eligible for the NGMR Disruptive Innovator Award in one page or less (though you may also submit accompanying videos or charts if needed).

If we receive a 10-page document, and it’s not clear on the first page why this individual or organization deserves the award, chances are high that they will not make the first round of cuts.

Don’t worry, if we need more information to make a determination, we will ask you for it.

I only wish that we could give out more awards. This is a very exciting time for anyone involved in analytics. I wish all of this year’s entrants good luck!

 Editor’s note: For those of you who pride yourselves on shaking things up for the greater good, nominations for the NGMR Disruptive Innovator are open through August 31, so don’t delay.

For more information on how to submit a nomination, please visit

Winners will be announced and honored at The Market Research Event in Orlando, November 7-9, 2001.

And be sure to check in for part two of this segment, when my friend, Chuck Miller of uSamp, takes us on an EXPLORation of the industry’s foremost innovation case study competition!

Marc Dresner is an IIR USA communication lead with a background in trade journalism and marketing. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.