This is the editorial I wrote for www.iqads.ro
Episode 1: “Thank you, Captain Obvious”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious”…means the ease with which both clients and researchers (myself included, at times) send all sort of information to the recycle bin as being “nothing new”, or “obvious” or even “that’s old news, let’s get down to the juicy stuff”.
The one with “we didn’t get anything new from this” (meant to sound more like “research didn’t really help this time”) ticks me off the most. Because in most situations the “nothing new”-ness is completely unarticulated and inactive in the mind of those who thought they already knew about it, and needs to be activated, structured and shown in the appropriate light.
This would be actually be a case when research would do a very good job, because, in the end, the insight (I know, it’s an overused term, but I don’t have a better one) is about things which are actually pretty obvious, only the connections between insights or the angle we see them from are new or renewed. Clotaire Rapaille’s catch-phrase “the reptilian wins” is a way of recalling that no matter how sophisticated we might become, no matter how much we would evolve, and no matter how much we would think that the world around us changed, everything can be reduced to instinct (and instinct is as old as time).
But this is not the topic I want to address, because be it old or new [information], thanks to research or to someone’s lucky moment of illumination, it’s all good if the important things get noticed and "filed" or worked upon properly.
Things get seriously bad when the “blah blah…we already knew this and it’ not useful” container gets filled up too quickly and thoughtlessly, because both the researcher and the client miss out on ideas with potential due to convenience, superficiality, or … lack of vision?
Here’s a personal example. The information which had the most powerful A-HA effect over me lately was wrapped around the expression: “money doesn’t bring happiness.” What could be more ordinary and more cliché than this? Most likely, I have already heard it from a lot of respondents in various research and I probably though to myself: “next!’ before they could even end their phrase. But, it so happened that at the beginning of this year I have read more studies “about happiness”- there was this enormous data base at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Among other studies, there is one saying that if one has over $10.000 worth of yearly income, the correlation between income and subjective perspective on happiness decreases considerably, and that for incomes over $50.000 per year, money doesn’t even have a contribution to happiness anymore.
Research in psychology shows that certain life events which would be expected to contribute to the perceived level of happiness (e.g. winning the lottery) contribute tonly on short-term periods (a few months) and that, anyway they don’t do a better “job” than stimulation of serotonin discharge does (aka Prozac & co.)
And the answer to “but what does make us happy?” is just as well a cliché, in the sense that nothing strikingly new has been discovered: socializing, family (with the very interesting nuance for me of commitment as in dedicating “time” to these relationships); overall, cultivating significant liaisons either professional or self-actualizing ones (hobbies, interests and such).
So, if we wouldn’t “trip” so much over the word “cliché” and we would give a real shot to such insights…maybe we wouldn’t be seeing (not even in the test phase) so many irrelevant, not believable attempts of brands to occupy the “centre of the Universe”,...and there wouldn’t be so much “happiness” on sale on the corner of every street...
(and here would be an appropriate place for my anti-consumerism, pro-social and environment alresponsibility speech, but unfortunately, my anti-dogmatism speech prevents me from doing so.)
Note: The copyright for the Captain Obvious thing pertains to my colleague Lorena…if she owes the copyright somewhere else, I don’t know, although it’s very possible…Oana