Worlds Apart But Not Much Different

In this weeks Thursday Night Insight, Simi Dhawan finds a stark difference in the Inuit daily routine when compared to her own, but also finds undertones of universal similarity.

I’m turning into my dad. Not quite the revelation that a twenty-something female should readily admit, but there it is. I accept this statement on the grounds that I thoroughly enjoyed watching “Human Planet” on the box this evening – gripping stuff indeed. The content could not have been more apt as I watched how men and women across the globe wondrously survive Arctic conditions – whilst my mind flipped back to the photos emailed by colleagues in our New York office this afternoon displaying the 17 inches of snow that had fallen overnight!

It’s often easy to accept your daily routine as you instinctively follow a set pattern of behaviours day-in, day-out. Get up. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Go to work – and so on. In doing so, it’s no wonder that you can forget about the bigger picture and fathom that human beings across the globe live a completely different lifestyle to your own. Today, I watched in awe as I learned of how an Inuit’s dogs are more than merely “Man’s Best Friend” in Greenland, but are their only reliant means of transport to source food and other resources for their survival. Whilst we grumble and curse if our boiler breaks down, there are those who can within minutes create warmth in dangerously freezing conditions by building an igloo with just their hands for tools – now that’s resourceful.

Whilst the programme unfolded and I watched mesmerized by how “different” life in other corners of the world is, perhaps the most interesting revelation was that, in fact, it isn’t much different at all. This occurred to me as one Inuit turned to his brother during a hunting expedition and grumpily requested that “he stop snoring so loudly this time!”

Whilst I don’t claim to be sledged to work every morning by 12 Greenlandic dogs across sea ice, what I can profess is that as human beings, our basic needs for survival do not change. How we go about achieving these needs in our everyday existence is merely a product of our environment and heritage, but in essence, these are universally the same.

In B2B market research, some of our prospective Clients would feel reassured to learn that we’ve previously worked within a similar industry to theirs. However, in truth, whilst this logic stands to reason, I’m confident that my colleagues would agree that whether we have or not makes little odds when compared with what really matters; the question or objective that the research is seeking to address. When we’re designing a study that will shed meaningful light on an issue, we don’t worry so much about the sector as we do about the research method we’ll adopt and the specific questions we will ask. If we’re product testing, then we know a demo within a focus group is likely to ascertain the most meaningful results – whether the industry is education or sanitaryware, what matters is that the audience is the right one and the questions we ask will give us the answers we need.

As people, we enjoy the possibility that we are unique, but yet feel reassured when we are backed by others. In the same way, whilst businesses thrive on standing apart from their competitors, they equally enjoy keeping a keen eye on their competition. A risk assessment could be carried out before an important decision is made. However, in simple terms you have two options: you take risks and lead the market by innovation or you opt for a more sensible approach and wait for others to take the leap first. If the market reacts positively, you can jump on the bandwagon and strike whilst the iron’s hot (to win market share of a market which you now know exists) or you go back to the drawing board if the market is not forthcoming.

As a researcher, the most rewarding aspect of what we do is knowing the value that you can add to such a decision. I don’t say this with any agenda, but from experiences that I’ve repeatedly encountered. During a project brief, you are completely at the mercy of those responsible for informing you about their business and the particular product, service or market that is being explored. However, post-research at the project de-brief, it never fails to intrigue all involved how much more insight is warranted from research – from the voices of the market as it stands now, rather than an assuming perspective that is slightly out of sync.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have the fundamental demeanour to call myself a risk-taker, simply because, by genetic default, I like to think things through and take measured decisions. However, given the right tools, information and intellectual ammunition, there would be no reason why I wouldn’t take a risk to try and reap the rewards in doing so! Indeed, this is what market research gives you. It’s the balance between a blind-sighted gamble and a calculated risk. It’s realising that to know your market you need to listen to what it wants and stay close to it. Like our fellow human Inuit’s across the globe, it’s imperative that to survive any condition (however extreme), you need to keep alert of every changing aspect of your environment – only taking risks once you have acquired all the necessary skills and resources you can pool together to do so.

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