Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam – What a Conference!

Posted on 4th March 2014 by München in Uncategorized


What a conference! I really wanted to go there because IIeX promises to stage new thinking and changes in our industry. There was a lot of client attendance and an agenda that aimed to answer the needs of client research organizations. Then I was asked to chair a whole session that included my favorite topic: the agile research organization. A great opportunity.

Sure, not everything that’s new is necessarily relevant for everybody, but it is important to see what is possible in new market research. Once again, “Our learning curve must be steeper than our action curve.” (Dr. Jeffrey Cole). And even when old wine only comes in new skins there is a feeling that traditional research falls short of what is possible today.

I was amazed by the breadth and variety of contributions of this conference: People coming from different backgrounds (not just research), addressing different areas of our industry. I don’t know of any other event that can deliver this. It felt at times overwhelmingly much ;-) but in the end predominantly enriching and inspiring.


It was alarming and illuminating at the same time how much in need of exchange and explanation we are about how we create value in our industry. To be honest, despite my 16+ years of research experience I had at times difficulties in understanding what other researchers were talking about (and I think these feelings were mutual ;-). In my speed dating session I talked to senior client side researchers trying to shed light on what the research industry has to offer. I met global strategist who felt “new” to research (really!). And I am dying to know whether the people who seemed to have a good overview really understood everything.

There is much more to think about, explore and reflect on than I can summarize – but here are my five top of mind Insights that I want to share with you.


Following up with what I said earlier the conference reminded on the importance of exchange of people with a similar purpose but different journey – no matter how difficult it is. I am a strong believer in the value of combining the meaning of multiple streams of research. For this we need to understand each other and know all the different ways to gain insights for business growth.

I loved the Hacking MR initiative from John Willshire and Mark Earls who ran parallel sessions with clients and agencies about the broken things in market research. They used their exhibition space to find solutions/hacks with everybody . For me it was insightful to see that there are very different things that are seen as broken – on the client and the supplier side.

And if you want to know more about the capabilities clients were looking for at IIeX, you can continue reading here in the Greenbook blog:


There was a lot of talk around the power of emotions and the unconscious that no doubt is an important discussion for us. LRW (Jeff Reynolds) promoted their Brand Proteus™ as more than a 3D experience, tapping into people’s perceptions beyond what can be articulated. I only truly understood what this means after taking part of their virtual reality demonstrations, absolutely amazing!

I’m still so impressed that I got in touch with what everybody talks about: that “we think much less than we think we think” (John Kearon) and how little we are in control with our cognitive mind. I still can’t believe that I could not convince myself to cross the pit even though I knew that I was on safe ground, and even though I was fully aware of it in the moment. They had to lower the platform before I dared to walk and jump – with shaking legs and cold sweating hands. It was a mind-blowing experience… that every researcher should have to stop asking valueless question, like “would you want to buy this product?” ;-)

Watch the MRX Crosses the Pit: Virtual Reality Lab video here.


Having said this, IIeX also grew my scepticism against “measurement” of emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I can fully relate to the want and need of being able to explore this powerful driver of behaviour – and appreciate implicit processes, imagery techniques and storytelling to develop my understanding of how human beings feel their way through life. But measuring emotions? After the presentations and Q&A sessions of Daryl Travis (Brandtrust) and John Kearon (Brainjuicer) I felt reassured about the equal importance of focusing on observing actions and habits of people, merely knowing that they are mainly driven by emotions. It supported my vision that one future is about experimentation with how to move people into action; and the value of continuously asking ourselves “how do we want people to feel”.


I loved every attempt at the conference to emphasize that research is not just there to deliver insight and pieces of information. We should prepare for action throughout the insight cycle.

It was good to be reminded from the Expert Panel on first day (The Next Generation of Insights & Aligning Client Need with Supplier Offering) that projects are not finished when they are finished; this is when the work starts and impact needs to be created.

Thus, I enjoyed the shortness of the presentations and hear John Kearon sing on stage instead of using video in a Powerpoint presentation. Tim Bock gave a great and clear presentation on how to visualise information, making it more intuitive to grasp meaning. I was also inspired by groh! Innovation and their prototyping of research results, helping people apply knowledge and offering a concrete way to discuss implications. Of course I can’t forget to mention the importance of storytelling in this context – and perhaps in the future games can not only engage consumer but also motivate continuous action on the client side.


Last but not least I want to mention that I appreciate that the Insight Innovation Exchange helped to create awareness for the Ginny Valentine Badge of Courage Awards. Encouraging people who have an idea to try it out, providing space for playfulness and fast failures. Anyone can nominate someone for a bravery award. From anywhere in the world. As long as the area is research. You can even nominate yourself!

Yes, there were some presentations that felt more like a sales pitch – but I still appreciated them pitching new ideas instead of safely hiding behind scientific correctness. In this context I want to repeat one of the Expert Panel’s suggestions of adding new dimensions to research with project money, taking 10% of a project’s money and do one thing different to see how we can add value, catching the moments when we can experiment and move away from perfection. Maybe Happy Thinking People can be part of turning this idea into action when translating people understanding into business success.

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