Last week I had the unenviable task of taking my daughter in to be tested for ADD.  We won’t know the results for some time, but in filling out the many questionnaires required for such a diagnosis, I realized that maybe I’m ADD too.  And  if you pardon the Oprah reference – maybe you have ADD and you have ADD and everyone has ADD.  We are a society of people with 8 second attention spans.

It wasn’t ALWAYS like this.  I have succeeded in school and my career in part because of my long attention span.  It was not a chore for me to sit and read a long book about sociological theory in grad school.  I still have a 300 page book about socialist thinking on my bookshelf gathering dust.  And Marketing Research has been a great fit for someone who has the focus to write a 100 page report rife with numbers and repetitive graphs. But, alas, no one wants to read 100 pages anymore.  I certainly don’t.  Our country and by default our industry has changed.  In the matter of a few short decades, we have rewired our brains.  We have shorter attention spans than goldfish.  We check our emails 30 times an hour.  30 times!  We need instant gratification and so do our internal and external MR clients. For our industry, the implications of our collective ADD are massive:

  • Surveys must be shorter and more engaging
  • Forget limiting bias by keeping your 10-point scales monotonously uniform, gamification may be less homogenous but more effective
  • Long fielding times are a luxury we can no longer afford
  • Reports must be turned faster and kept shorter
  • Clients want the details of every question but also the intelligence that comes from synthesizing the results into a cohesive story
  • “Just tell me what to do” is the new gold standard for reporting

We live in a different world than the one in which I trained over a decade ago. The question that we need to answer is whether we as researchers have evolved.  Are we going to embrace this change or become obsolete?