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The Australian Scene – thoughts from a visitor

I recently spent two weeks in Australia, for the first time in two years, to hold meetings with brands in a wide range of sectors, including banking, retail, media, insurance, telecoms, and personal technology. This post highlights the contrasts I spotted during my visit, compared with my last (pre-pandemic) visit and my dealings with clients in Europe and North America.

Unfounded Deference
In the more than twenty years I have been visiting Australia, I have been struck by the tendency for Australians to assume they are behind the curve in terms of best practices in insights. Generally, this assumption has been unfounded, insights in Australia tend to be based on great fundamentals, there is a strong professional development culture, and global ideas are quickly incorporated. In my recent visit, the assumption of being behind the curve was as strong as ever, presumably compounded by the isolation from the rest of the world for the last two years. However, the assumption of being behind the curve is as unfounded as ever. It is good that there is a hunger for knowledge in Australia, but I think the professionals in Australia should carry themselves with more confidence.

Key Issues
My take on clients’ key issues comes from the topics we covered in Q&A. The top issues were:

  1. How to demonstrate the ROI of insights? This is a major trend around the English-speaking world, but less so in the non-English-speaking world. My key message was that insight professionals have been too slow to show ROI because they want to do it perfectly. My advice is to adopt quick, imperfect, but good enough measures that can be done now.
  2. How to handle the growth in DIY research? I prefer to think of this as the democratization of insights, with more people accessing research and more people conducting research – a process that is being accelerated by the growth in platforms. My key message to insight teams is that they can’t stop this process. Insight teams should be shaping the process, setting the standards, being the coaches, being the subject matter experts, and being enablers.
  3. What are the new key techniques? This is a global topic and actually misses the point, IMHO. The trend globally is towards simpler research, conducted more frequently, by more people. The key issue is to focus on the topics that need insights, and how to make those insights available to more people, faster and cheaper.
  4. What is next for CX? CX is going through a maturing process. Initially, CX was created to audit systems, to see that the processes defined by an organization were being complied with. However, it is now shifting to being focused on creating actions rather than just collecting data. Most of the teams I spoke to were unhappy with the usefulness of NPS and are looking to move to a more proactive solution.
  5. What is next for communities? The two main uses I see companies using their communities for at the moment are a) What does ‘post-pandemic’ mean? and b) how best to create democratized and agile insights. The first of these topics does not require any new tech or tools, it focuses on talking to members regularly to understand how the new normal is unfolding. In terms of democratized and agile research, the key is the integration of communities into a wide range of projects – something that requires a change in mindset and sometimes some new tech.

The Challenges of Hybrid Meetings
The meetings I conducted in Australia were a mix of face-to-face, virtual and hybrid (some attending F2F, some virtual). The best meetings were the F2F meetings. F2F was more engaging and the interactions were much faster and delved deeper. The virtual meetings were efficient and very much business as usual. The hybrid meetings were an interesting mix. For the people attending F2F, the meetings were more engaging and responsive than the virtual meetings. However, for some of the people attending remotely, they were less effective than the meetings that were 100% virtual.

Fun observations
Of course, not everything can be work. 😊 Interesting things I noticed during my stay included the following. On a rainy day in Sydney, I was attending a F2F meeting in an almost empty building in the CBD and the client commented that now colleagues have the choice of working from home or being in the office, on rainy days most people choose to work from home – can you imagine that being OK before the pandemic? Compared with two years ago, people seem to be wearing more casual clothes, a change that seems stronger than in Europe. And finally, the number of people bringing dogs to work seems to have rocketed beyond anything I see in Europe.

In summary
I think Australian insights are in a good place. Yes, Australia should keep looking to learn globally, but I’d like to see more confidence being shown, and more Australian companies sharing their thinking and best practices abroad.

Author: Ray Poynter, Chief Research Officer, Potentiate
Ray is based in the UK and has over 40 years of experience at the intersection of work, fun and discovery.

Image credit: Unsplash

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