Skip to Main Content

Perspectives on the role of insights in shaping the post pandemic world


One of our European colleagues asked our founder, Tom Pearson, to reflect on his perspectives of the impact of the coronavirus, where we can find inspiration, and what actions are needed to survive and thrive in the short and medium run.

REFLECTION: What is the impact of what we are experiencing?

The pandemic has thrown our lifestyles into chaos.  All of a sudden, we have had to change the way we work, play, shop, communicate, exercise, learn, teach, parent, and on and on.  No one knows where this all leads, long term, but the common belief is that we will all be profoundly impacted in one way or another. 

Our clients are in the same boat we are – working from home, sheltering in place alone or with spouse and family.  For many, their businesses and industries have slowed to a crawl, and they are challenged to help their organizations navigate through this unprecedented time by being more efficient and resourceful, that is: doing more with less

Of course, doing more with less has always been the challenge.  Clients wanting to get the most and best insights from their research budgets is nothing new.  But the pandemic has given it new urgency:  We all need to be more efficient and resourceful.

INSPIRATION: What sparks have I experienced as an entrepreneur/businessperson that could be the genesis of new ways of acting over the next weeks/months?

Whenever I see an interview on TV with a front-line healthcare person, I am always struck by their passion for what they do, their compassion for their patients, and their overall humility when told they are heroes. They react by saying things like: This is what I’ve been trained to do; it’s my job. And even though they are literally risking their lives, they all say they would not want to be anywhere else at this moment, but in the hospital treating these patients. That is passion!

I had a severe case of pneumonia in December, both lungs were under siege. I experienced firsthand the compassion of doctors and nurses and everyone else who works in the hospital. They all truly care about the lives, health, and well being of their patients.  That compassion is clearly essential to successful treatment outcomes.

We as insights providers also need to have passion for what we do and compassion for our clients. It means realizing and believing in the value and importance of the insights we provide and demonstrating that we truly care about our clients’ overall well being and prosperity.

Going Virtual on the Fly

Our business directly experienced the impact of the pandemic, as it was raging in Europe in the second half of March.  We were poised to conduct in-person focus groups (among surgeons) in 5 European countries, from March 19th to the 27th.

As the date for our flights to London approached, the destination countries started closing down and we had to respond quickly.  One-by-one, the focus groups had to be switched to an online format, which meant that travel arrangements had to be cancelled and revised, and then cancelled and revised again, and then again! Our local partners also had to be responsive and flexible, as facility rentals had to be cancelled and respondents informed and re-recruited from in-person to online virtual focus groups.

In the end the entire project was successfully completed online.  Together with our clients we moderated and observed the groups in all five countries, seeing and listening to the respondents (and simultaneous translators), and sharing notes with each other and the local moderators, all  from the comfort of our own homes.

ACTION: What actions are needed in order to survive and thrive in the short and medium run?

Conducting focus groups online is not new, but because of the pandemic it is likely that web-enabled virtual methodologies will represent the more standard, go-to approaches for qualitative research, especially in developed countries.  In fact, web-enabled virtual interactions have become an integral aspect of the shelter-in-place lifestyles we are all experiencing, and I suspect much of it will remain a permanent fixture in the new normal post pandemic world.

What is less obvious is the impact the pandemic experience will ultimately have on consumer attitudes, behaviors, and brand affinities.

A Grand Re-boot

The pandemic has unleashed a kind of grand re-boot, a total economic shutdown and restart.  This ultimate refresh is an opportunity to clear out the clutter in our lifestyles that have needlessly drained our energies and resources.  What we’re seeing are people getting back to basics, revisiting the fundamentals of life that matter most: spending time with family and friends (virtually); going for more walks and bike rides, and driving less; starting new hobbies, and so on.

We are also seeing a lot of pain: unemployment, bankruptcy, isolation, loss, fear and great uncertainty about the future.

Insights into changing needs are sorely needed, but during times of disorder and change, standard approaches to measuring attitudes and opinions are not enough. Insights professionals need to provide creative and efficient methods that give our clients a better understanding into what their customers are experiencing, and the impact it’s having on the way they feel about their overall lifestyles, and their hopes and expectations for how they want to live and work in the post pandemic future.