Here’s to the temporary solution…

For his two cents’ worth in this week’s Thursday Night Insight, Oliver Truman dwells on the importance of being resourceful – a quality that’s of particular importance to any budding market researcher.

I sit here writing this week’s submission to TNI in the conservatory of my home surrounded by drying clothes. And by “surrounded”, I mean utterly deluged by all manner of damp, but freshly laundered, apparel. As is typical of the British summer, climatic conditions here in Manchester unfortunately won’t permit the use of the washing line in the garden to aerate an entire holiday’s worth of clothes al fresco. So the ad-hoc solution has had to make do.

At the time, the idea to use the conservatory seemed like a good one, but soon hit a critical snag: Aside from a dinner table and four chairs (and having only recently moved in), there was nothing yet on which to hang my shirts, shorts and smalls. Distressed, and in a sense of mild domestic panic, an idea mercifully hit me: “Why not…”, I thought, “…tear up and tie together some of the shopping bags lying in the cupboard to create a crudely-fashioned homemade clothes line”.

Once stretched from one end of the room to the other, with ends bound to the window handles on diagonally opposite sides, a functional, environmentally-friendly answer to my quandary had been found – Even if the end result looked like some kind of bizarre, underwear-based decorative bunting. It was, however, a moment of brilliant and unique genius – quite possibly on a par with the invention of the computer or understanding the nature of the atom (two things Manchester was somewhat better at).

OK, so perhaps I’m in danger of exaggerating the significance of this, but the point remains that solving life’s small, but vexing problems with simple solutions can often raise a disproportionate sense of smug satisfaction in us all. And this feeling of achievement has been shared by countless others at the “There, I Fixed It” blog, which celebrates and showcases some of the world’s best (and worst) botch jobs. Some of the more ingenious examples featured on the site include a garden sprinkler made from a multiply-perforated plastic drinks bottle, the bath-over-an-open fire hot tub and the fourteen-pronged garden rake sausage skewer. Many of my personal favourites involve the creative use of duct-tape.

All of which (somehow) brings me back to the lot of the market researcher… Although our main role is to furnish organisations with business information and strategy that adds value to our clients’ activities, the path to reaching that goal is always littered with many small, and often practical, problems that need to be resolved. Whether it’s ensuring that product samples are properly dispatched to respondents, attempting to get a rebellious projector to work at a presentation, or co-ordinating reams of interview data from all corners of the world, each can be challenging in their own little way. Research, it can seem, is as much an exercise in academic rigour as simply being resourceful and “hands on”.

I can’t help but close proceedings this week by featuring another favourite ad-hoc solution that Matt Powell came up with several months ago. The brief he tackled was this: “Create a long stick out of commonly occurring office objects that will allow Oliver to reach the cord for the window blind, which is otherwise out of reach by virtue of the position of his desk”. The sum of his efforts (featured below) is a marvel of ingenuity:

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