I believe the children are our future…

An interesting tweet from Tom Ewing (@tomewing) has been rolling about in my mind.

It has made me think about a few experiences  have had with “young people” over the past ten years of working in the same firm. I started there in my late 20s, but now I am clearly the old guard; pushing 40, senior role, blah blah blah. Here are some observations.

  1. I’m not sure if this is just the type of young researchers we have been hiring, but there is a desire by about 90% of them to have a 9 to 5 career. Good on them. Market research is a means to an end. A job they hold down to pay bills. The future of the industry for them is about as exciting as the future of the Wedgwood factory. This is not a “bag Gen Y” observation – for a start, I loathe the whole Gen Y labeling system, but rather that the majority of young researchers treat their job, well – as a job. The future of the industry they work in is of vague interest, but not a conversation they want to help shape. And it should be noted there are a bunch of researchers in their 30s and 40s who are like this too.
  2. A young-researcher-future-leader we did have who worked for us perhaps wasn’t supported as well as he should have been, as no one really knew what to do with his skills. He was digital when everyone else was analogue. He was turning left when the whole place was hardwired right. Everyone loved him and appreciated his passion and enthusiasm, but no one knew what to do with him. I’d like to think we would now (this was about 7 or 8 years ago), but back then the best thing was for him to head to a place that could harness his passions (and at the time that was outside the MR industry). I see on LinkedIn he is now “Head of Projects, Europe” for a new media company. He is still working outside of consumer research, but he is the type of guy who I’d love to have back in our organisation. (Simon – if by some random chance you are reading this – we fucked up. But looks like it worked out the best for you anyhow!)
  3. So back to the 10% or so who give a shit. Where is their platform to tell and talk to us about how they see things? Internally organisations tend to be quite poor at setting forums for researchers to “navel gaze” at where we are heading, and the noise about the industry tends to be generated by the same old voices those who need to be heard and seen to have a view via conferences, PR etc. The big risk is that bright and passionate people are needed everywhere. And I’ve seen a lot of these bright and passionate young researchers move in other directions as what they have is a valuable and desirable commodity – passion, curiosity, commitment, intelligence, and drive. Working with them is a pleasure, sometimes a pain in the arse (the little upstarts) but never dull. How do we get these “kids” more involved in shaping the future of research?
  4. The cynic in me though has always seen a lot of talk about the changes and challenges in the industry, but there is still nothing like just getting on with it.  Making it up as you go along, perfecting the theory by working on a real project, delivering good work by creating something that worked for your client and their problem. The real bright stars out there should be engaged as much in this sort of work as talking about where we are headed.

This post is a little foggy with no conclusion or answer, as I shift thoughts about in my “sickness head” but that little tweet has got me thinking…

(Tom Ewing has done a post about this as well which can be found here)

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