How Open to Innovation is Your Organization?

As we continue to discuss ways to engage survey participants to increase data quality and cooperation rates one major issue needs to be addressed: In order to adopt new procedures and technologies, an environment which is open to change is imperative.

I frequently hear fellow researchers complain that they have problems introducing new techniques and methods within their organizations.  Although many individuals are enthusiastic about exploring emerging types of research, the internal corporate inertia is a barrier to change.

Common themes include:

  • “Management doesn’t want to experiment.”
  • “Our budgets are committed to trackers and other long-standing projects.”
  • “It would take too long to explain to stakeholders.”

Several years ago, we completed a study of corporate research decision makers and presented the findings at a major market research conference.  The study, which was co-sponsored by IIR, found that most organizations are not natural adopters of research technology.  In fact, only about 6% of companies in this study were truly innovation seekers in the field of research.

Chart 1: Distribution of Research Innovation Adopters

Another interesting finding was that for companies that were more likely to adopt new methods, the impetus often comes from the top of the organization.  In other words, unless management openly advocates seeking innovative research solutions, most organizations will tend to stick with the tried-and-true and are happy to maintain the status quo.

The opposite is also true; if stakeholder acceptance of new techniques is low, it emerges as a major barrier to innovative initiatives.

Common internal reasons to delay or avoid change are shown in the following chart.

Chart 2: Common Internal Barriers to Innovation Adoption

But external barriers are just as important as internal roadblocks.  Client organizations themselves tend to be very conservative with regard to adopting new techniques to enhance engagement.  This is due not only to fear of change, but also the lack of interest in investing in innovation.

In another study that we conducted for a Data Quality Summit produced by RFL Communications, we determined that client organizations were only willing to spend an additional 7% to 8% on average for techniques that would lead to greater respondent focus and therefore improved data quality.  A 10% increase in research budget for higher data quality would be a point at which proposals would begin to be rejected.

A commonly cited rationale for low enthusiasm for innovation to increase research engagement is that clients assume that research participation, focus, data quality and likelihood to take part in future surveys are all “responsibilities of the research agency.”  Unfortunately, low budgets for engagement create an economic disincentive for the industry to pursue change in this area.  And certainly for individual firms who are “Innovators,” this turns out to be an expensive investment with an ROI that is difficult to quantify.

As always, we appreciate your comments and shared experiences on methods for measuring survey satisfaction and engaging forms of research technology.  If you have instances where you can share strategies for overcoming internal and external barriers, we’d love to hear your stories!

Bill MacElroy is Chairman, Socratic Technologies, Inc.


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