From ‘Me’ research to ‘We’ Research

May 13, 2009

Mark Earls and Dr Alex Bentley have recently published this great article in Research Week discussing ‘How ideas spread?’ Not only is it another great view on ‘spreadability’ they highlight an interesting approach to research that may actually help us understand groups of people (we) and how they might spread our ideas. Earls and Bentley challenge traditional methods stating that they focus on individuals (me) and generally treat them as being isolated from the rest of the population and social influence.

So how do they define ‘We research’?

‘From asking individuals about themselves – who are poor witnesses to themselves and their behaviour – to instead asking them to play to their strengths in observing their peers’

It kind of makes perfect sense really. So much of what we do is still too focused on the me rather than the we, even though it is becoming more and more important to consider people’s extended networks. How are your briefs structure as one example?

I have a kind of love hate relationship with research. Whilst it’s great to be enlightened and uncover something new or interesting that inspires you, it seems to be happening less and less. Unfortunately I find a lot of research I come across to be particularly unhelpful these days and extremely ubiquitous. The output rarely justifies the cost.

And here’s a case in point. In a recent post a study by Jack Trout and Kevin Clancy was cited from the Harvard Review, finding that only two categories of product – soft drinks and soap – were becoming more distinct, but the other 40 were homogenizing. The authors also found that only 7% out of 340 prime time ads monitored included what could be considered a ‘differentiating message’. Now there is a hell of a lot of research and ad dollars being wasted just to end up saying and sounding the same as each other.

Unfortunately research is being used more and more to validate rather than innovate, particularly in this current climate so it’s nice to see a refreshing and common sense approach to research that will hopefully help us understand social influence and how our ideas might spread.