One Wish: Improving the World of Insights - Articles



One Wish: Improving the World of Insights

Administrator | 27 Jun, 2024 | Return|

by Crispin Beale, CEO of Insight250 | Photos by Pixabay

Insights is an industry of continual change, from technology advancements to methodology evolution. However, despite these ongoing enhancements, the task of extracting insights from market research is filled with challenges that create obstacles for the most seasoned experts.

I thought it would be fascinating to reach out to a spectrum of these industry leaders to get their perspective on a simple question:

“What is one thing that you wish you had known when you entered the insights, and/or the one thing you wish you could change about our profession today?”

Ray Poynter, President, ESOMAR

“I wish I had known just how much a small change in the question changes the answer. I'd like the profession to adopt more rigorous methods of testing what works and for everybody to realise that context is key – what works in one context does not necessarily work in another.”

Ritanbara Mundrey, Global Head of Innovation & Insights, Nestle, Switzerland

“I wish I had known about the existential crisis of market research. In some ways it has been in a continuous crisis: first to be recognised as a profession, then as a “losing competitor” to consultancies and now as something that can be substituted by Data Scientists and Machines.

“I wish I could change the way Insights are used (and therefore, not abused). In this context I paraphrase David Ogilvy: (not to) use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, (but)  for illumination. And, therefore, I’d like to elevate its stature and for it to have a seat at the table in all organisations.”

Laura Ruvalcaba CEO, Brain Research, Mexico

“One thing I would have liked to have known about our profession when I got in is that it is very important to deeply understand ‘what,’ I mean what is the research looking for, what are they going to do with the result, why they need that information, what is the real concern. That justifies the importance of a well-trained asking procedure. Asking is not for people with less abilities to understand, but for people wanting to go deeper.”

Nick Baker, Global Chief Research Officer, Savanta, UK

“That having the 'right answer' is really only 25% of the job, not only because there are often multiple 'right answers' but more importantly because getting the 'right outcomes' is the real job and that needs a lot more than a 'right answer'. Outcomes are what our jobs are all about. This means effective internal and/ or client stakeholder management, influencing abilities and a massive barrel-load of effective communication and delivery skills to enable the right outcomes because they don't just happen on their own.

“The industry is far too often 'internally obsessed', looking inwards not outward at client's commercial success as the key marker of ours (whether agency or client-side we all have 'clients'). If we obsessed much more on driving commercial impact from our work, delivering genuinely commercially relevant and deployable insights the value of what we do would be much more universally valued and valuable.”

Kristin Luck, Founder WIRe, ScaleHouse, Growgetter, Ex-Officio President ESOMAR, USA

“I don’t think I realized how vast the data, insights and analytics sector is or how quickly the definition of “data driven” would evolve and expand. For anyone new to the industry, you have a tremendous opportunity to explore different sectors and different methods that I didn’t have the opportunity to early in my career. I would also recommend cross training in both marketing (I love Mark Ritson’s mini-MBA marketing classes) and business finance as understanding both of these functions are critical to your ability to offer real insights into what will, ultimately, drive your client’s/client company’s growth. And revenue growth is what really demonstrates the value of good research!”

Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder & Executive Chairman S4 Capital plc, UK

“Politics - with a small ‘p.’”

Diego Casaravilla, Managing Partner, Fine Research, Argentina

“When I entered the market research profession, I wish I had known that technical expertise alone is insufficient without strong soft skills to connect and engage with people. Over time, I learned to enjoy building relationships and discovered the magic of straightforward communication.

“I wish we could change the pervasive race to the bottom on pricing. Despite claims of prioritizing quality, cost-cutting often dictates decisions, compromising the value and integrity of our work. This results in misguided insights, eroded trust, lower salaries, and weaker agencies, even before considering the impact of synthetic data.”

Ben Page, Chief Executive Office, IPSOS, France

“I wish I had known the huge potential to travel, to really experience life for all types of people and institutions in a way that few other professions let you experience.

“I wish the profession would have more self-confidence about the importance of what we do and stop trying to pretend to be management consultants or tech companies. We do need to work much harder on ensuring insights are delivered simply and succinctly - but that doesn’t mean taking for granted the fundamental importance of understanding data quality - especially in a world of AI and synthetic respondents.”

Melanie Courtright, Chief Executive Officer, Insights Association, U.S.

“I wish I had known the importance of advocating for myself. There’s a lot to be said for working hard and being smart, reliable, and trustworthy, but the only person who is going to advocate for you 100% of time is YOU. I learned too late that I should advocate for my next role, my salary, and my role and voice in the company.

“If I could change one thing about the profession, it would be the establishment and utilization of robust quality buying signals. Implementing audits, credentials, certifications, and metrics that reflect actual quality outcomes would empower buyers to make truly informed decisions. This is a goal we are all striving towards and should wholeheartedly embrace for the best possible future.”

Mark Langsfeld, Chief Executive Officer, mTab, U.S.

"I wish I had initially understood the challenges that siloed datasets pose across an enterprise. This complexity impacts not just researchers and analysts, but also marketers, product managers, engineers, and innovators. The difficulties extend beyond merely harmonizing different data sources; they include challenges in analyzing and extracting insights, transforming these insights into compelling stories, and efficiently distributing them across the enterprise to enable quick, effective decision-making.

Fortunately, as a pioneer in market research advancements for nearly four decades, our team at mTab is fulfilling my wish of addressing these issues with the development of our Insight Management System (IMS). Our IMS seamlessly ingests, maps, and harmonizes disparate internal and external survey datasets. It swiftly analyzes this data to uncover actionable insights, which are then rapidly disseminated to marketing, product, and strategy teams. This empowers business teams to make informed decisions that drive innovation and delight customers."


Jane Frost, CBE, Chief Executive, MRS, UK

“Well It’s a group of things that relate really, it comes from being a client’s client (CMO) of the insights profession and knowing that great insight could help me deliver radical change. I wish that the sector would believe in itself more, focus on the outcomes of what they do, learn to tell the stories to multiple stakeholders, and stop taking up so much airtime letting our debates about process rule our airwaves.

“We have been handling large datasets since the dawn of the sector, we have been using LLMs, we do understand our analytics, of course we do, but rather than react with confidence when the latest jargon wave comes along ( “big data “ AI). We worry that we won’t adapt. No wonder external perceptions of us are occasionally “old fashioned.”

Sharmila Das, Chairwoman, Purple Audacity, India

“The one thing I wish I had known as a young researcher is the fact that "a project is not only a project, but also one stage of the product/brand/service 's lifecycle; hence pay attention to its history and the future predictions. Similarly, a consumer is not a consumer of that one product/brand/service but also a person with a life; hence pay attention to the person too.

“The mindfulness of approach to data collection and data analysis/interpretation is my most valuable learning as an Insights fraternity member."

Justine Clements, Consumer Insights, Samsung Electronics, Australia

“I wish I had learnt early on to prioritise what was really important and not try to do everything; no one will do it for you and if they do, it will be their priorities not yours. Related to this, the one thing I’d change about the market research industry is its tendency to lose experienced researchers through burnout. Hopefully in future we’ll see more focus on workload management, employee well-being and more supportive work environments.”

Alex Hunt, CEO, Behaviorally, U.S.

“Insights and data has for a long time been poor at marketing itself; the value we deliver, the interesting work sitting at an intersection of numerous trends from technology to psychology, the variety of career paths on offer that can take you around the world, the talented people that work in our sector. If I could change one thing, it’d be that collectively we had more self-belief in what we do, and placed more emphasis on effectively evangelizing and marketing the industry.”

Jon Puleston, Vice President Innovation, Kantar, UK

“This might be a bit sycophantic to say, but I wish I realised how interesting working in research was. I come from a marketing background, and I am sure many marketers can identify that if you wake up every day with the same product and the same set of problems to solve, it can become quite monothematic, to the point you get a bit sick of the thing you're trying to market. In research you are presented a continuously changing set of problems to solve all the time making the job fundamentally more interesting.

“What one thing would I change?  I would like it if our industry was upgraded to a profession. Before sending out a survey to hundreds of people, researchers should have to pass an exam that teaches them how not to bore their respondents.”

Vinay Ahuja, Vice-President,  Analytics & Insights, P&G, Switzerland

“Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; ignorance and complacency did. And curiosity about the context is especially key to predicting and anticipating shifts. Staying in touch with and developing a curiosity mindset to continuously examine an ever changing context and understanding how that shapes the customer’s missions, actions and attitudes is fundamental to our work. 

“To quote David Foster Wallace: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” Learn to read what surrounds us. Stay ahead of emerging trends and technologies. Explore, observe, and listen. Diversify your interests. Learn new skills that expand your personal capabilities to question why we do what we do.”

Jean-Marc Léger,  President / CEO, Leger, Canada

“I have always found competition between research firms often unnecessary. Seeing ourselves as enemies is ridiculous and prevents us from finding opportunities.. We learn more from our partners than our own clients. We are partners more than adversaries.

“I have done everything in my career to create solidarity between members of the industry by creating the CRIC association in Canada, the WIN network around the world and my participation on the ESOMAR Board. Together, we can grow the pie and the market rather than fighting over crumbs. One for all and all for one is my motto.”

Dan Foreman, Latana; Zappi; Bakamo; Mediaprobe; Veylinx; Phebi; VST; Empower; Incivus; hatted, UK

“I wish I had known how powerful the profession is, advising brands, governments, foundations, impacting decisions that affect the entire World. I wish we could change that impression, that more people know how important the profession is and we are celebrated more.

“I also didn't realise how important Excel would be!”

Arundati Dandapani, Founder and CEO,, Canada

“Our industry thrives on its global talent pool: approximately 400,000 skilled data and insight practitioners highlighted in ESOMAR's market reports. I lead an annual Global Industry Skills Survey of employers that identifies key skills for our profession. We often underutilize the unique potential of this 0.05% of the earth’s population.

“To stay competitive, we must foster creativity and lifelong learning. We must embrace unique value propositions over homogenization. Recognizing the unique needs of global consumers and citizens, particularly immigrants, requires tailored solutions that honour their dynamic realities, to drive transformative growth and impact for global brands and institutions.”


Danny Russell, Owner DRC, UK

“The one thing that I wished I had known when I entered the profession, is the same thing that I wish I could now change about our profession. I naturally expected that a company/brand focus should be on improving Customer Experience. Ensuring that the people who pay money for our brands/services have a good experience, so they will repeat purchases, enhance our cashflow, grow our revenues, improve our profits and, well, you know, pay our wages. But I was wrong, there are many people in companies who have zero focus on the customer!

“And this has now become what I think needs changing in our profession – a relentless focus to improve the experience for customers – by improving the insight-driven decision making of stakeholders across organisations. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Urpi Torrado, CEO Datum Internacional, Peru

“When I entered the market research profession (30 years ago), one thing I wish I had known is the importance of adopting a holistic approach and integrating multiple data sources. Early in my career, I often relied on single-source data, which provided a limited perspective. Over time, I learned that combining insights from various sources, such as surveys, social media analytics, and transactional data, offers a more comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior and market trends.

“As for what I would change about our profession, it would be the tendency to rely heavily on traditional methods without exploring innovative approaches. Encouraging a culture of experimentation and adoption of new technologies can lead to more insightful and actionable research outcomes.”

Ryan Barry, President, Zappi, USA

“I wish I knew how slow things moved. When I joined the industry it was at the dawn of the internet revolution and we took so long to get comfortable- marketing moved on in a lot of places without us.  And this is exactly what I’d change. Moving from the risk protector to the growth amplifiers as an industry.  That’s always what it should have been.”

Caroline Frankum, Global Chief Executive Officer, Profiles Division, Kantar, UK

“One thing I wished I’d known when I entered the MRX profession 15 years ago is how rapidly the lifecycle of data’s value, and the speed of insights would change. Trusted data has always been an important source of truth in our sector, but for many years, taking a retrospective and / or single point in time view was the norm for strategic planning and creating business value internally and externally. This was neither scalable nor fast, which often meant insights were detached from decision making processes, creating conflict between consumer and brand alignment.

“Over the past few years, we have all witnessed how companies that prioritise market research as a fundamental function, rather than a mere expense, and focus on amplifying real human insights with cutting-edge approaches and technological advancements to garner real-time insights at scale, have a higher likelihood of thriving amid economic uncertainty and driving long-term viability.”

Finn Raben, Founder, Amplifi, The Netherlands

“Do not allow technological advancements to drive down our prices!

“A race to the bottom only creates a commodity market, devalues our professional skills and lowers barriers to entry - all of which create a vicious circle!”

Dr Roland Abold, Managing Director, infratest dimap, Germany

“There is one thing that everyone entering the insights profession or working with insights should be aware of (including me 20 years ago): When making decisions, having no data is bad, but having bad data is even worse.”

Debrah Harding, Managing Director, MRS, UK

“One thing I wish we could move away from is viewing research as purely a commodity.  This perception has reduced it purely to an ‘industry’ or a service which can be easily substituted, rather than what it is: a skilled profession.

“This has had financial implications for the sector, driving down margins meaning essential practices such as ensuring high levels of data quality are not always affordable. This is why I am so pleased to be part of the Global Data Quality (#GDQ) initiative, through which research associations from across the world work together to create meaningful and sustainable long-term change.

“One thing I wish I had known was to worry less about perfection and focus instead on progress.  It takes courage and confidence to accept that something might not be exactly as you want it, but we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

Mariela Mociulsky, CEO, trendsity, Argentina

“Since the beginning of my career, it would have been crucial to consistently integrate cutting-edge technologies and strengthen the industry to play an increasingly strategic role in decision-making forums. Regarding changes, I wish to enhance transparency in both data collection and analysis, as they are occasionally overlooked factors when using diverse, unreliable, or biased information sources. Promoting the integration of tools and disciplines, along with heightened ethics to safeguard information privacy, is paramount. While AI can be a valuable ally, the responsibility ultimately rests with us.”

Nic Umana, Global Agile Innovation Human Intelligence Director, Mars, UK

“One thing that I wish you had known was the value of small experiments and trying new things - the importance of allowing teams to take a risk, fail fast and harness the learnings and I wish I could change the silo’s that exist in big corporates between Human Intelligence/Insights functions because we are so busy serving our target/function client groups that we rarely stop and connect the dots with each other, missing the opportunity to collectively build Insights capabilities across the hubs.”

Thank you everyone for providing your perspectives on where insights have struggled and future focuses on where the industry can thrive. These insightful viewpoints bring a fabulous look at where the industry can head with technology advancements, methodology evolution and beyond. It should be a tremendously exciting journey.


Crispin Beale - Chief Executive, Insight250, Senior Strategic Advisor, mTab; Group President, Behaviorally 

Crispin Beale is a marketing, data, and customer experience expert. Crispin spent over a decade on the Executive Management Board of Chime Communications as CEO of leading brands such as Opinion Leader, Brand Democracy, Facts International, and Watermelon. Before this, Crispin held senior marketing and insight roles at BT, Royal Mail Group, and Dixons. Crispin originally qualified as a chartered accountant and moved into management consultancy with Coopers & Lybrand (PwC). Crispin has been a Fellow, Board Director (and Chairman) of the MRS for nearly 20 years and UK ESOMAR Representative for over 10 years. Crispin is currently a Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab as well as Group President at Behaviorally.

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