Who will lead the future of innovation?

This week research professionals from across the globe flocked to London for the Market Research Society’s Annual Conference. Across the two days, the conference played host to a range of speakers including Bill Bryson, Pointless presenter, Richard Osman, and our very own Caroline Plumb.

We were lucky enough to chair a session in the Impact Fringe, where the industry’s hottest and most contentious issues get debated. The question at hand: who will lead the future of innovation: corporate/startup partnerships or in-house innovation teams?

To debate this fascinating topic, we were joined by an illustrious panel of insight and innovation experts: Colin Duff, Argos’ Digital Innovation Lead, Louisa Livingston, Hachette UK’s Insight and Innovation Development Director and Hilary Ingleton, Head of Market Research at EE.

Hilary spoke up for the role of the insight team in the innovation process. EE, which has always been an innovative brand, has a strong track record in using an insight-led approach to drive innovation. Many of the company’s propositions have been co-created with consumers including Clone Phone, a proposition which allows customers to back up content from their handsets to the cloud. Whilst Hilary believes that good ideas can come from anywhere (and this includes startups), she argued that there will always be a vital role for the insight team in filtering and refining an idea according to consumer wants and needs and in developing a go-to-market strategy that resonates with consumers.

In his role, Colin is responsible for partnering with startups to drive innovation at Argos. This has included everything from letters handwritten at scale to the UK’s largest trial of 3D printed jewelry. His view is that whilst insight can uncover opportunities and problems, partnering with startups is more useful due to their ability to provide solutions, fast. This is particularly the case for digital products and services, where technology rather than insight is the driving force. Colin argues that the rise of corporate/startup partnerships means that insight teams need to adapt; becoming more digitally savvy, agile and moving towards providing solutions rather than problems.

Hear more from Colin

In her role at Hachette UK, Louisa has experienced the value of both consumer and startup-led innovation first-hand: both have played important roles in bringing innovative, new digital propositions to market. Louisa believes that insight has a key role to play in bringing consumer needs to life and landing ideas in the business in a way that startups struggle to. She argues that in today’s world, where we can learn from on-site testing and other digital metrics, we need to be careful by what we mean by insight: anything that is evidence-based should fall under this banner.

Hear more from Louisa

To find out more about our session and the relative benefits of both insight-led and startup-driven innovation, check out Research Live’s article summarising the panel debate.