Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) - QRCA Views Magazine, Summer 2019

48 QRCA VIEWS Summer 2019 www.qrca.org Sarah DaVanzo is best known as a “super-forecaster” who works at the intersection of innovation, marketing, branding, trends, and culture. She is known internationally, has launched several companies and has presented at TEDx. In her current role within the L’Oréal Group (USA), she has developed agile innovation methods to help brands sync with trends, anticipate change, improve relevance, and design for the future. In this Luminaries interview Sarah describes her work, the impor- tance of curiosity, and the methods she uses to detect trends that have led to a 73% futures prediction accuracy rate. Kay: What methods do you use in your work as a trend forecaster to capture the zeitgeist? Sarah: What we’re looking to do is tri- angulate. If we start to notice a behavior, we want to make sure signals or data points are coming from multiple differ- ent sources to corroborate that behavior. To have one’s finger on the pulse of how culture and humans are moving, do call-scanning for signals—looking for online and offline qualitative and quan- titative data points through primary research or secondary research. Typically, we’re not going to spend a lot of time on a behavior where there’s only two or three incidences of that. If we’re looking for the zeitgeist, we’re looking for patterns. Over time you need to do this regu- larly—the daily rigor is very critical. It’s impossible to jump in and jump out. You’re scanning news feeds, looking at research reports. It requires being a polymath look- ing broadly across different data sources. You start to see signals and patterns emerge after a while. Our job as researchers is to then see whether there’s correlation and causation beyond the correlation. We use machines and technology for this, but there’s also a human intuition part. Kay: How do you convince others to see what you are seeing? Sarah: Convincing others to see it is a very different proposition. Sometimes it takes two different types of people, depending on your audience. Showing data is important. In my expe- rience, the audience is often at the C-suite level, so they’re very data- driven. They want to see concrete fore- casting driven by multiple data sources and even predictive modeling if need be. One of the most successful ways to show the future trajectory of where cul- ture is going is through what I call “cultural forensics”, showing trend pat- terns historically that lead us up to this moment. When you unpack multiple historical trend lines, you’ll see the tip- ping points and the dipping points, the inflection points, and the catalysts. You can infer insights from them, showing a series of historical trends (some people call it “back casting”), to see where the future is headed. I find this approach to be one of the simplest, not requiring as much heavy data analytics, so anyone can do it. Kay: So, the researcher becomes a tuning fork. Sarah: Yes, that’s a great way of looking at it, and the music is the insight. We create, but the tuning fork is respond- ing to the vibrations. Right? I want to challenge the whole idea of researcher because on the client side no one is jumping around having a party over the research. It’s the insights and specifical- ly the discovery that come out of the insights, what the implications are on By Kay Corry Aubrey n UX Researcher and Trainer n Usability Resources Inc. n Bedford, MA n kay@usabilityresources.net Foresight Research: Perspectives from Sarah DaVanzo, VP, Consumer & Market Insight & Foresight, L’Oréal Group n Luminaries n

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