The Quest for Beautiful Questions in Outer and Inner Space

Oct 04 2015 Published by neilgains under book review

In The Martian, the stranded astronaut Mark Watney has to use his wits and scientific knowledge to overcome hostile landscapes and environment, tragic accidents and the loneliness of being the only man left on Mars. The story focuses on his ingenuity in solving all the problems that he comes up against. And why is Mark Watney so good at solving all the problems that confront him? He is also very good at asking the right questions. Read more »

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What marketing can learn from search engines

Jun 16 2013 Published by neilgains under context

A recent article by Neil Perkins at OnlyDeadFish, talking about the future of search, is well worth reading for any marketer or researcher. For me, the most interesting part of the article discusses the increasing importance of context for search engines, referencing a talk by Will Crtichlow also called The Future Of Search. Read more »

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Lessons from the Master of Deduction

May 13 2013 Published by neilgains under insight

“Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.” – W.H. Auden

In Mastermind, Maria Konnikova uses the stories of Sherlock Holmes to lay out best practices for deduction, observation, memory and imagination for anyone who wants to be a consulting detective (including market researchers). Some of the key lessons are worth repeating and a good addition to a previous article on Sherlock Holmes, summarised as:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Observe carefully
  3. Imagine
  4. Deduce
  5. Learn Read more »

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Asking Questions Without Asking The Question

Apr 20 2012 Published by neilgains under market research

Curiosity has it’s own reasons (Einstein)

The lifeblood of market research is curiosity and curiosity is a great thing in all aspects of life (as Einstein said so eloquently on several occasions). Market researchers are very adept (and trained) to ask lots of questions, but I think we ask far too many and should ask far fewer and be smarter in the way we design research in order to do that. Let me be clear from the start. Asking questions in market research is very often at best a waste of time, and at worst positively misleading. Read more »

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What Shape is Your Thinking?

Sep 24 2011 Published by neilgains under insight

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”  - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Connecting the dots

Are you drowning in the sea of data yet? As the world becomes more and more complex, with more and more information to understand and less and less time to do this, the importance of integrative thinking becomes more and more important. In The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin presents a number of convincing business case studies, including A.G. Lafley at P&G, Jack Welch at GE, Michael Lee-Chin at AIC and Martha Graham (who revolutionised modern dance) of integrative thinking.  The common thread in these examples and others is that all of them demonstrate the ability to see problems from a range of perspectives, think in terms of total systems and not component parts, and simplify complex ideas into straight forward (and often disruptive) solutions to problems. Read more »

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Smarter Thinking Frameworks

Jul 08 2011 Published by neilgains under business

Framing thinking

In Don’t Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff provides a practical guide to the way that our mental frameworks shape the way we see the world, in turn shaping the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we behave and how we interpret good and bad outcomes in life.  These mental frameworks are often ‘invisible’ to us (he calls them the ‘cognitive unconscious’), consisting of structures in our brains which we are not able to access, although we can see their consequences in the way we reason, the decisions we take and our personal values (what we see as ‘common sense’).  We also see them in the language we use, as our words are defined relative to these frameworks, and the stimulus of a word, triggers frames which are activated in the brain. Read more »

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Data is the Tip of the Iceberg

Nov 26 2010 Published by neilgains under business

Is Market Research the iceberg that keeps the Titanic afloat?

At the APRC and JMRA annual conference in Tokyo yesterday, Hatsunori Kiriyama of Procter & Gamble gave a thoughtful keynote speech on “My expectation from research”.  Although Kiriyama-san comes from a sales background, he clearly values research, as do his company, placing it at the heart of the business he runs in Japan, or as he described it, “our brand stories always start with the consumer”. Read more »

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Looking for Clues

Nov 21 2010 Published by neilgains under insight

“Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact.  We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common.”  - Denis Diderot Read more »

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Frames for Thinking

Oct 19 2010 Published by neilgains under insight

“When all think alike, no one thinks very much.”  - Albert Einstein Read more »

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“Beware the Ides of March!”

Oct 04 2010 Published by neilgains under risk


In William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned to “beware the Ides of March”. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar saw a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Read more »

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