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Are Insights Teams Driving More Innovation?



And are PE-backed companies more agile?


As I mentioned in Part 1, Quirks NYC was fantastic! I was particularly impressed by the new focus on respondent quality. If you’re foundational data is bad, it doesn’t matter what you build on top of it.


One other trend I saw was the ongoing move to strengthening internal research teams inside companies. There were some really smart Insights teams on stage! Across these teams, I saw some common practices:


  • Insights teams are working directly with product innovators – in some cases, they are taking on the role of program managers and actually integrating innovation efforts across internal teams. This is a powerful trend, and it really demands a lot of skills from Insights teams that push them to learn and grow.


  • Client-side insights teams are deepening their expertise, often by hiring people who used to work on the supplier side. These teams know what they want and if they can’t buy it, they build it. This has a lot of advantages – their technical skills win credibility, they know what tools to use and when, and they can move quickly. The risk is getting lost in the research weeds, but Insights teams are getting better at communicating across their organizations.


  • Insights teams are judiciously using more DIY tools, but mostly for commoditized capabilities. I talked to a lot of DIY tech providers, and every single one of them is building up their client service function. The Insights world is going hybrid!


So here’s the part I wasn’t quite certain about… it seems as if private equity backed companies (and perhaps private companies in general) are leading the charge. Tillamook and Chobani for example both had excellent presentations demonstrating very impressive innovation pipelines – which is great for us dairy lovers. 😊 Cuisinart had a similarly impressive profile. And among the audience, I talked to several folks who worked for similarly sized companies that were also backed by private equity. Many of them seemed to have a similarly aggressive research and innovation strategy.


On the other side, I did see presentations from BIC, DeWalt, and others that were also very interesting, so it might be less about the ownership structure and more about the size of the company and the focus of management on customer-driven innovation. Or maybe I’m just flat out wrong (not the first time 😉). After all, Smucker’s gave a pretty cool presentation too.

I’m curious what others say? What company factors seem to contribute to effectively using customer Insights teams to driven faster and better innovation?

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