What can market research learn from English rugby?

By Dario Ravasio

Since the new coach, Stuart Lancaster, was appointed roughly one year ago, the English national team has experienced a big transformation. After years of disappointments and defeats, with the new coach it seems like the team that won the World Cup back in 2004 has finally rediscovered its form. They recently beat World Champions New Zealand by a record score and that is a perfect demonstration of the change going on.

An interview released the last February show the coaching principles and philosophy that has allowed English rugby to re-discover its winning ways. Here are the contents applicable to Market Research:

  1. Investment in Research needs to Happen Earlier in the Business Cycle. 

The English coach is apparently highly sensitised to the need for constant improvement, always looking left and right for inspiration, ways to get better. Nothing new here. What is more interesting is the focus on getting the timing right: “making changes before things start to decline, rather than when it is too late” .

The moment to invest in MR to understand the dynamics of a business is when growth rates are still going strong, not when they are beginning to slowing down. 

  1. Shifting Gear is about aiming for “Better”,  not pitching Old versus New. 

One of the main principles of the coaching regime previous to Stuart Lancaster’s appointment was the utilisation of big name players who had built a reputation over the years. Experience was valued highly, a dip in form of a seasoned international didn’t seem to matter, even if was a dip that would be better described as a decline, continuing for months, even years.

The new coach seems to select on current form and if this means younger players appear more frequently, so be it.

A great similarity to research practices is that a company has definitely to innovate to improve the performances. But more importantly, you should avoid “Old MR” methods against the “New”.

  1. We Need to Think and Learn Laterally. 

Stuart Lancaster’s coaching involves taking time out to learn from high performance coaches from other sporting fields. We should all emulate this – it is essentially good business practice.

In the Market Research is the same. We’re beginning to wake up to collaboration across boundaries, learning from related fields.

Finally, and on a slighlty more lighthearted note, I would say that learning from any high performance sport has to be beneficial to all the researchers.

For the complete interview at Stuart Lancaster click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2013/feb/08/stuart-lancaster-england-flops-force

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