In case you are wondering whether and how today's young market researchers are different from you and me, wonder no more!
The ARF's Re:think 2013 served up a delightful panel of young researchers. The panel provided a definitive answer as to whether the young are different. Even before any of the four members of the panel had a chance to utter the first word, it was abundantly clear that they were significantly different. To begin with, they were better dressed than their elders. And not just better dressed, but stylishly and in-your-face well put together. It is clear that they think about their appearance, and take the trouble to enhance it with clothing and accessories.
Secondly -- and one shouldn't put too much weight on this observation -- but today's young researcher is a young woman! Three of the four young people were female, sitting alongside the one lone male I didn't take a head count, but I did observe that a very large proportion of the audience was female as well. Conclusion: our industry is on the right track with regard to equality of women in the workplace and well ahead of most industries I can think of. Nobody asked, but I would venture a guess that these young women were paid as much as their male colleagues. I will venture an opinion too: they are well worth their salaries. They are smart, articulate and knowledgeable. This last observation applies to the lone male panel member too. I am not unduly biased.
Thirdly, for good or bad, there seems to be a great deal of conformity -- once they started talking. This is curious, given their decidedly nonconformist dress styles.
Finally, before we get into real substance versus style, one thing stood out. When asked a question by the moderator, they simply gave an appropriate answer and didn't hog the mike in the way that old-timers would.
So how ARE they different in substance? First, they were all "passionate" to a woman and man! Interesting. You would be hard-pressed to find four seasoned, over-thirty researchers, all stating in unison that they are Passionate about their profession. This explains why they all think it's "cool" to really understand consumers. I find this refreshing.
As far as the rest of the conversation, I am happy to report that they all have the Entrepreneurial Spirit, enjoying doing more with limited resources. In an apparent -- but not real -- contradiction, they all "work to live," not vice versa. They relish any social interaction at work and consider their co-workers as friends. This friendship carries into the work process -- which explains why they tend to partner with others on projects, and enjoy doing so.
As far as work style, they appreciate the need for Speed, Story Telling (as opposed to providing dry numbers or data), good "packaging" of their findings, Visualizations and Synthesizing.
And with all these good qualities, none of the young people professed any aspiration to a higher-level position. All they want to do is continue doing their job -- and continue to improve.
I would say that the future looks bright for the research profession. Who knew?