The Paradox of Automation and Increased Employment

In Western society, fears and concerns about automation creating job losses and social disruption date back, at least, to the early 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution. In 1811 the UK saw the rise of the Luddites, protestors who were smashing looms and factories that were changing their lives – shifting them from self-employed home-workers to factory employees. The luddites were unsuccessful, production moved into factories, cost fell, output increased, wages fell and many starved. However, across the wider economy more people were employed and more people were better clothed. The economy won, many people won, but some people lost and suffered terribly. The history of automation has not simply been a history of job destruction; it has also been one of change and job creation. During the 20th Century the US saw automation change the nature of work. For example, automation-led change resulted in a fall from 40% of the US workforce being employed in agriculture to 2%, but it also led to an increase in the proportion of the US population in employment and a massive increase in the total number of people employed. The growth in jobs created by automation was facilitated by massive levels of immigration. This […]

MRMW Kuala Lumpur – Stephen Paton reports

This is a guest post by Stephen Paton who attended (and spoke at) the recent MRMW APAC conference in Kuala Lumpur. Wow that was quick!  It seems like the work year was just beginning and here we are with conferences under way across the globe.  For me, once again I started the year by attending the MRMW  (Market Research in the Mobile World) Asia Pacific event held this year at the Istana Hotel in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on March 8-10.  I should also point out that unlike last year where I was a presenter only, this year I had a heavy involvement being invited to chair the conference, conduct a workshop (thanks Merlien Institute) as well as appear in the ‘Great Debate’. I learnt last year that the MRMW is slightly smaller at around 200 attendees and with only one presentation track the conference has a more intimate feel  yet still has a good spread of international brands, presentations and attendees.  Major brands included PayPal, Alibaba, Unilever and IBM.  With a large local Malaysian and Singapore representation attendees and presenters came from as far away as the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa, Nigeria, India and of course  Australia. The MRMW continues […]


Many Conference Exhibitors Could do Better

I am lucky to attend a large number of conferences each year and at most of these conferences there is a trade-show or exhibition area. With a few notable exceptions many of the companies exhibiting at these shows are selling themselves short, they can and should do a much better job. This underperformance by most exhibitors matters as the revenue companies pay to have a stand reduces the fees that attendees pay and contributes to the financial viability of the events. If exhibitors fail to optimise their investment they will be reluctant to pay what the space is worth. So, this post is a call to arms to improve the value that exhibitors gain from the events they attend. How to improve stand/booth performance There are a number of ways to improve the performance of a stand at an exhibition or conference, and here are a few examples: Say what you do When I walk around an exhibition I often play ‘Guess what that company does?’ This game involves looking at a stand from 5 metres away and seeing whether I can work out what service they are offering. In perhaps 50% of cases it is not clear what a […]


AI will change your insight job more than you think

This post was written in response to a session at the MRS Conference in London where, earlier today, a panel was discussing AI (artificial intelligence) and seemed to have a mind-boggling degree of complacency about the impact of AI on market research and insight. To summarise their views, machines are good at repetitive tasks but can’t be creative, the jobs that will be absorbed by AI will tend to be those that are already automated, or those done by more junior staff, and those that are repetitive. However, I think the role of AI will be much more disruptive than the panel seems to think. Assumptions A couple of starting assumptions: Computers do not just do what they are programmed to do. Computers are increasingly programmed to learn, not to do – that is why we call it machine learning. Computers are already analysing data and writing reports and have been doing so for a while. A large share of current market research is poor; it too often utilises a poor design, it uses a poor questionnaire or a poor discussion guide, the analysis is not deep enough and does not access all of the available information, and results in […]

5 things researchers should do

5 things researchers should do in 2016

Last week, I shared my 5 top tips for things I think market researchers should do in 2016, as my closing keynote at IIeX Amsterdam. These tips were both a response to the ideas presented at the IIeX Conference and also a general view of the challenges and opportunities in 2016. 1 Mobile First In 2015 the talk was about the need to be device agnostic, i.e. the need to make sure that research exercises, for example surveys and online discussions, worked on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Whilst that is still true today, the focus has shifted and is continuing to shift from device agnostic to smartphone. With a few exceptions, in 2016 mobile first is the key design element. Start by designing research so that it will utilise and work with a smartphone, and as a second consideration assess whether and how it can also be configured with tablet and PC. In most cases, it is straightforward to ensure research can also embrace tablet and PC, but not if location, push notification via beacons, the use of apps, or the collection of in-the-moment information is a key part of the research. 2 More time talking with the users of […]