Pre-MRMW North America 12 Interview: Jason Anderson

Monday, July 9, 2012

Continuing in our pre-MRMW North America 12 interview series, I talked with Jason Anderson of Blizzard Entertainment.  Jason has a unique background that many market researchers don’t have, and with that background, he brings a fresh perspective to the table.  I’ll let him explain.
RM: What are you most excited to share about with us at MRMW and why?  What difference could it make for your audience if they were to implement what you’ll be talking about?
JA: My entire career has revolved around technology and the many ways we can harness it to improve products and services. Most of my academic training was in computer science, where classes like “data structures” and “algorithms” and “human-computer interaction” taught how to organize, analyze, and communicate large amounts of data. In my current consumer insights role I’m not designing algorithms, but I have a deeply ingrained appreciation for what information technology can and cannot accomplish.

If I asked you about the transformative moments in business and society over the past 30 years, the mass adoption of computing as a personal technology is the clear winner. Inconceivably fast processing of information, in personal and portable form factors, connected with billions of other processing engines. This change has occurred within a single lifetime and is enabling other radical transformations such as biotechnology, government upheavals, the redesign of how the military operates. And yet we still have paper surveys. We still rely on focus groups, even when they are mocked by the cultures we are trying to study and understand. We have blanketed every email address we can find with survey invitations, increased the volume of survey activity by an order of magnitude, thrown up popup windows with even more survey questions.

Traditional research approaches have served the industry well for a very long time, but today’s world moves much faster. The titans of modern industry are technologists, and as such they (we) pigeonhole the applicable uses for traditional market research. My presentation doesn’t have any easy-to-implement suggestions for how to navigate the new environment, but hopefully will at least offer some insights.

RM: What do you think that the current market research world is afraid of when it comes to innovating on research in the mobile world?  What enabled you to get over the fears and innovate?  What motivated you?

JA: I don’t think fear is the right word. If people were afraid, they would be driven to take action. I know that in my own case, there’s considerable inertia to overcome. Clients become comfortable with studies – they are familiar and consistent in format, which makes it easier to understand the output while taking less effort. Additionally, most people are not early adopters; that’s why they’re called early adopters. With something like the smartphone, it’s very difficult to explain the benefits or to convince a non-user that a new phone can completely change your day-to-day life.

If you’re a user of new technologies, you don’t need an explanation. You gain wisdom through experience. If you’re not a user of new technologies, you must follow the advice and examples of others. There is risk involved in pursuing tech (not all technologies succeed), but I believe the personal and professional enrichment outweighs the risks.

RM: you’re right…it’s not necessarily fear.  Others in this interview series have also pointed out that “there’s considerable inertia to overcome” in the market research space.  Thanks for challenging us, and I look forward to hearing more in Cincinnati.


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