Enduring Agility

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Caroline Withers, Head of Innovation

25 Jun, 2018 | 2 minute read

Caroline describes how agile research should be a carefully planned endurance race, not a mad sprint to the finish line.

Agility is a hot topic, but you already know that.

Spanning a huge range of industries from software to services, manufacturing to marketing, the speed of new practices and applications have been heralded as essential to business success. Market research is no different, with a race (yes, a literal race at times) to develop the fastest approaches to answer client questions.

However, agility and speed aren’t the same thing. Fundamentally, being agile is having the ability to move quickly and easily. This ‘easily’ factor is an essential element, meaning an agile approach doesn’t just take short-cuts to the fastest solution but rather looks at the situation as a whole taking the easiest route. A second definition of agile is ‘the division of tasks into short phases of work with frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans’ essentially completing smaller tasks more flexibly.

This means agility isn’t just being Usain Bolt, working at pace, rushing to complete tasks and moving on before you’ve blinked; it’s more like Simone Biles, being effective and flexible and reacting quickly during the development process (or your gymnastics routine!)

Innovation is an endurance sport, like a triathlon. While there will be bursts of speed and energy along the way, it’s key for athletes to consider the event in its entirety.

Instead of trying to shave seconds off individual stages, they look at strategies to be flexible and fast across the whole process. Merely cutting down time by compromising the scale and scope of the project can lead to challenges further down the line, like expending too much energy during the swim and collapsing from your bike on the last hill.

When it comes to innovation, you’ve got to consider your entire development process. What are your necessary stage gates, and what confidence inspiring steps are needed to achieve them? Must each development stream be siloed in separate teams? Would an aligned, flexible working style bring more insight? From working across client teams in R&D and marketing, we’ve found that getting the very most from your target consumers in joined-up, considered research can really accelerate (and even springboard) development, whilst ensuring your customers are truly at the heart of your agile innovation.

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