The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Forum on form

The MRS's Impact 2016 was a cornucopia of new thinking, entertaining speakers and storytelling, but if Day two was this good, what have I missed?

Talk over coffee first thing on Day two focused on hangovers (from the party the night before), Acacia Avenue’s Martin Lee’s interview with author John Yorke, and a session entitled, ‘Beyond the Poll’. Attendees rated the Yorke interview as it reminded them how good stories can generate feelings, insights and empathy.

As for ‘Beyond the Poll’, the contribution which stuck out in many people’s minds was a futuristic one: ‘Heuristics, hatred and hair: forecasting elections the System 1 way’. Here Brainjuicer’s pairing, Orlando Wood and Tom Ewing, talked about trying to make predictions using the same tools used for brand research. Could it be that voters make political decisions based on rapid, unconscious shortcuts rather than complex considerations?

There were other papers that made me regret missing Day one: I’d have liked to have heard Dixons Carphone’s Andrew Harrison speak from the heart about using insight as a positive force, setting up a charity to give schoolchildren access to a tablet device. Likewise, I’d have been keen to listen in to Unilever’s Stan Sthanunathan’s ’10 Commandments’ for companies wishing to keep up with the pace of change.

Baronness Neuberger’s keynote opened proceedings on day two. She, too, touched on Harrison’s focus on schoolchildren, but also talked of Europe’s failures with regard to refugees, and, yes, research. She urged politicians to look at all data, not just market research, and to be honest. An optimist, obviously. In ‘Social noise — cacophony or symphony?’ we were updated on how researchers are harnessing social data, while the panel’s Christopher Wellbelove, from BT, voiced a common complaint: that a lot of people in companies are making decisions about social media who aren’t even on it.

Fast forward to an entertaining lunch session with Professor David Spegelhalter’s ‘Sex by numbers’. He highlighted the validity of the seven year itch, and pointed to a blip at 35 years, too. ‘The future of insight in the public sector’, meanwhile, prompted a heated debate about the loss of data resulting from the demise of the COI, and what could be done about it before the conference closed with another Martin Lee interview, this time with author Bill Bryson. What a master storyteller, particularly the tale of being poleaxed by a car park barrier, seeing stars, yet hoping if he lived to be able to make use of the incident. There’s dedication for you.

 

Louella Miles
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2016