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4906582_sEvery winter I get on a non-fiction reading kick. With the new(ish) year underway, now feels like a great time to think a bit about our industry and best practices, to catch up on methodologies and alternative approaches we should be thinking about, and to explore what other thought leaders are publishing.

Creativity and inspiration may not necessarily spark from dense textbook surveys of the market research landscape, but they’re a good place to start. There are two books I would recommend for anyone interested in what we do and how we do it:

  • Ray Poynter’s The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research is a helpful introduction to online research, how it’s evolved over the past ten years, and how researchers reach out into the world in different ways to consult with consumers and business constituents in various categories.  This book is a great place to start learning about marketing research and some of the newer and interesting ways in which consumer insights are being culled (social media, communities, etc.)
  • Naresh Malhotra’s Marketing Research: An Applied Orientation, now in it’s sixth edition, is an excellent textbook for in-depth understanding of how market research can provide businesses with strategic value – exploring how insights from market research studies can be applied toward bigger picture business questions, hypotheses, and problems. This text is comprehensive, providing an overview of how many diverse market research methodologies contribute to feed into the channel of consumer feedback.

In addition to these resources, the field of psychology continues to contribute meaningful “food-for-thought” to market researchers. For a fifth (!) year in a row, Dan Ariely’s name and works have come up in our conversations around rational and emotional drivers for consumer behavior. Start with the famous Predictably Irrational, if you haven’t already, and if you find it engaging, follow his thinking through the more recent The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, on the shelves in many bookstores now.


Watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson educate Richard Dawkins on the importance of understanding context when “teaching” others. Tyson makes a wonderful point about the difference between information and persuasion.


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The words“geek” and “nerd” are often used interchangeably, despite the clear differences between them. Finally, a comprehensive infographic that explains the distinctions, both broad and subtle, between the two. Click the above image for the entire infographic, as this is just an excerpted portion. Enjoy.

As Marty mentioned in a previous post, the new Delicious design is a little wonky, and no longer pumps content to our blog and Twitter account. So here’s a roundup of articles I’ve stumbled across over the past month that you may find interesting:

So who’s more ‘with it’ – younger or older people? Seems like it depends on what you’re looking for. It appears that at age 20, “fluid intelligence” peaks. The ability to learn quickly, observe patterns, analyze, and retain information is at its zenith. Also, abstract reasoning and puzzle solving are paramount-the ability to dream freely and create dream-like scenarios. Rebellious youth with their heads in the clouds!

Things begin to change as we age, but don’t see it as “selling out” on yourself, it’s a natural process of the shifting of dimensions of intellectual curiosity and cognitive development.

Of note, fluid intelligence is most predominant in those with Aspergers Syndrome (i.e., the piano virtuoso with never contrived C minor/major seventh chords progressions swimming in his head).

When one reaches middle age, said to be early 50s, intelligence becomes grounded in knowledge and experience, not recognition. This type of intelligence utilizes the ability to refine concepts though iterative learning and improvement, to contextualize and find meaning through comparison and analogy. Over time, practice of this type of intelligence is said to positively effect people’s social reasoning and general overall well-being (i.e. the ‘mellowing out’ affect of middle age).

Hence, as we age, we don’t change who are are, we’re still the same ‘us’. We remain true to ourselves and our goals and ideals. It’s how we work our way through the maze of life, acquiring stuff in our heads and moving forward, that changes how we keep moving.

The U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies has long supported (for the past ~5 years) an online system for pulling area-based employment and residence data using a visual map-based selection tool called OnTheMap.  This software is fairly intuitive and fun to use, but can also be quite useful in exploring a specific market or region to understand where workers live and work, and how that has changed over time.

OnTheMap is useful for more than work location, however.  It’s a multi-layered mapping tool, with companion data on demographics, earnings, industry characteristics.  We’ve also used it to identify exact metropolitan statistical areas and radius ranges, to find transportation routes, greenspace, and tribal and military lands, and to simply better understand a physical marketplace.

For years, organizations like the Census Bureau relied heavily on point-in-time estimates, tables of statistics and physical and static maps for data exploration like this. As new systems come online, are developed further, and improved over successive versions, our ability to access information from our desktops is not only facilitated but empowered.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting infographic showing the percentage of adults with college degrees by county. They’ve added a nice piece of interaction that lets you follow changes over time since the 1940 census. You can view by gender, ethnicity, county, etc. Check out the full interactive version here.