The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Survival tips from the masters

March was a crowded month for conferences this year, and smack bang in the middle came the MRS's 'Are you future fit?', demanding an element of fitness to survive it.

Future fitness was not a topic that Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn took lightly. In her keynote she was at pains to assure us that five core values underpinned the company’s ability to survive and prosper: focus on impact; move fast; be open; be bold and build social value. And that was before she started banging the drum for gender equality.

Over the next two days the need for openness was often repeated. It appeared In the ‘Futureproofing business and brand’ slot, with the BBC determined to find out what made young people tick. It occurred again, in a heated discussion about polling, what it can and can’t achieve, in ‘Measuring the public mood’ (with Dame Jil Matheson’s contribution to the panel voted one of the best at the conference).

But the mood of earnestness was also leavened with some fun sessions. All praise to Acacia Avenue’s Caroline Hayter and Martin Lee who invited us, in ‘Value: Art or science?’, to put a price on three prints. We started with no background information, and were then drip fed details. The purpose: to demonstrate the difficulties in creating value for clients’ brands — and for researchers’ work. If the room’s ability to set a sensible price on the prints was anything to go by, heaven help the industry.

Praise, too, for some notable keynotes including those from creative writers Oliver James and Caitlin Moran, the historyinspired Dan Snow, and erstwhile Strictly competitor and shadow chancellor Ed Balls (who choreographed the audience in a version of gangnam style), all of whom mixed humour with food for thought. And as lunchtime entertainment, academic, author and broadcaster Dr Hannah Fry produced one of the most polished presentations, titled ‘Probability, stats and the mathematics of love’, that the conference has seen for a long time.

But for me the session that ticked all the boxes came from ‘Memories of the Future’, chaired by herdmeister and author Mark Earls, so much so that I have asked him to reprise his intro in this issue of In Depth. His distinguished panel, including Ogilvy Lab founder Nicole Yershon, Moshi Monsters’ Chris Thorpe and Experian’s Julie Doleman, tackled the thorny issue of how to innovate and prosper. It was a session that proved the MRS has not lost its edge.

 

Louella Miles
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