How to Make Better Predictions

Jan 04 2016 Published by neilgains under book review

Over the new year I read the perfect book for the start of the new year. In Superforecasting, Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner provide a roadmap for becoming a better forecaster, with small and progressive steps to improving any prediction you make on almost any topic. This is not just book for political pundits and economists, but is recommended to anyone in marketing sciences, including researchers, who make a living from interpreting and synthesising information to make inferences about business decision-making.

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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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The Right Tool for the Right Job

May 28 2013 Published by neilgains under design

One of the most famous quotes in marketing, and one that a friend of mine is very fond of repeating, is Ted (Theodore) Levitt’s comment that “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill – they want a quarter-inch hole.” Despite this good advice, marketers, researchers, designers and innovators continue to focus on the drill to understand customer behaviour and develop new product ideas. Clayton Christensen writes that, “Every marketer we know agrees with Levitt’s insight. Yet these same people segment their markets by type of drill and by price point; they measure market share of drills, not holes; and they benchmark the features and functions of their drill, not their hole, against those of rivals. They then set to work offering more features and functions in the belief that these will translate into better pricing and market share. When marketers do this, they often solve the wrong problems, improving their products in ways that are irrelevant to customer needs.”

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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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Three Websites that Might Represent the Future of (Quant) Research

Apr 15 2013 Published by neilgains under market research

Reading Research Live’s interview with Steve Phillips (see here) prompted me to think again about the future of market research, and more specifically about customised quantitative research which is the backbone of the majority of global research agencies. Along with two other website’s Zappistore might hold the key to part of the future of market research. 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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Beyond Average Joe

Apr 25 2011 Published by neilgains under data

“All models are wrong, some models are useful.”  - George Box

The flaw of averages

Market research reports are generally packed full of average scores and comparisons of means, and not often enough with distributions and extremes.  In the real (business) world this is a mistake as, in the words of Sam Savage’s (f)law of averages, ‘plans based on average assumptions are wrong on average’.  To put this another way, errors occur in the real world when we replace uncertain numbers by single (or simple) averages. Read more »

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Attributing the Right Cause

Apr 18 2011 Published by neilgains under context

“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”  - W.C. Fields

Fundamentally flawed

In What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the effects of the fundamental attribution error (FAE) in several different articles.  For example, in one chapter he discusses the Challenger disaster and the impossibility of having complete control of complex technologies and systems, arguing that attempts to find causes and scapegoats in such situations are futile.  Without acknowledging the FAE, his argument in the chapter touches on the desire of all of us to attribute outcomes, and especially bad outcomes, to specific traits of the people involved rather than the situation they are in. Read more »

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Mapping the Mind (Consumer Understanding #11)

Mar 20 2011 Published by neilgains under consumer psychology

Pulling the trigger

Have you ever had the experience that something was on the ‘tip of your tongue’ but you couldn’t quite remember?  That’s likely because you know the information exists, but you can’t quite find the right connection to trigger its recall.  That’s why such memories sometimes come back later when triggered by a more relevant (but often random) stimulus. Read more »

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