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Gaming to Innovate

Roger Mendez, Principal at Propeller Insights

— March 8, 2017 — Business
Roger Mendez is a Principal at Propeller Insights, a market research company devoted to consultation, collaboration, and creative insights. He spoke with Trend Hunter via email about the importance of teamwork, and how games often play a part.

TH: How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?

RM: Our team sets time aside each week to sit down and collaborate on any upcoming projects or ways in which our company can grow. We always make sure to share our ideas to get input from the entire team. Oftentimes, these weekly meetings will be held during “Taco Tuesdays” and may evolve into a game of 'Settlers of Catan.' Events such as these promote team camaraderie and will, at times, generate great creative ideas.

What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?

The biggest barrier to innovation is being set in your ways by saying, “This is the way it has always been done.” The great thing about Propeller Insights is that we have the freedom to explore new ideas and approaches towards fulfilling the needs of the marketplace. We are not a tech company so we do not build our own tech products. We partner with different companies and use a variety of products to achieve our business objectives. There are times where our client requirements may not be fulfilled by these tools, which is when we get creative. Our experience in the industry has taught us that there is always a way to achieve our objectives, so we collaborate to find it. There is always a way.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?

The nature of our business is to discover trends that pertain to a variety of different industries. We always have our eyes and ears open for additional insights, but utilizing traditional research methods like surveys, focus groups, and ethnographies is the biggest way we can identify consumer and B2B trends. Through analyzing research findings, we become ‘trend experts.’

Do you have specific rituals for resetting to be creative?

Every now and then we will go out together as a team to get away and hit the reset button. Whether it’s offsite retreats or team-building activities, we find ways to escape and talk about our company goals.

Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

Given that we are a market research company, the sheer development of new products and services pushes us to change our research methodologies so that we are always able to address the ever changing needs of the marketplace. For example, in the age of the smartphone, we adopted mobile technology as a way to reach customers for ‘in the moment insights’ which is far different than traditional online surveys. Not only does this allow us to get the data faster but it allows us to reach out and get information from a completely different demographic.

What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?

We allow a culture where everyone is open to providing their ideas on how to create solutions for any challenges we currently face or may face down the road.

Describe the future.

Our industry has evolved from simple snail mail and mall intercepts to app-based survey delivery for in-the-moment insights. The industry moved from those slower-to-respond methodologies to the on-demand methodologies we see now in order to provide meaningful insights in a shorter amount of time. Since web access and smartphones are now so prevalent, we are also starting to see our industry merge qualitative and quantitative research with video survey submissions and more precise online in-depth interviews. Lastly, in the age of Yelp, people want their opinions heard. Consumers are more and more willing to share their thoughts and brands and the market research industry will need to take advantage of this feedback-driven culture.

What’s the craziest thing you have done to get creative inspiration?

My business partner and I were in Las Vegas on a two-week long project. In the evening, we had marathon sessions where we programmed a large online survey that required custom script in order for it to work properly. We took our laptops down to the very back of an open bar on the casino floor and programmed next to loud craps tables for hours on end. Surrounded by laughter and cheers from casino-goers all around us, we were able to come up with a solution which managed a number of operations in the background of our survey. Sometimes you will find inspiration and creativity in the most unlikely places.
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