Radio NewMR Insight Podcast – Lisa Wilding-Brown

Lisa Wilding-BrownPosted 10 September 2021

In this Radio NewMR podcast, Lisa Wilding Brown, the new CEO of InnovateMR, chats with Ray Poynter.

Lisa Wilding-Brown has been in the industry for nearly 20 years with specialties including executive business leadership, product innovation, sampling and survey design, panel development and management, online and mobile recruitment as well as full service mixed-mode field management across a multitude of industry sectors. As Chief Executive Officer at InnovateMR, Lisa has a passion for building strong relationships and a relentless mission to drive innovation and efficiency. Lisa and the InnovateMR executive team deliver transformational research strategies for their clients by harnessing the power of technology-enabled solutions that accelerate and activate insights for agencies and brands alike. Lisa is also a founding member of the Multicultural Insights Collective, an inaugural member of the Insights Association’s Laureate Program, nominated Insights Top 250 industry leader list, a recipient of the Global Research Business Network’s Participant Excellence Program, and an elected member of the ESOMAR Global Council 2021-2023.

Podcast Transcript
This transcript was generated automatically by Happy Scribe, which means it should be about 80% accurate.

[00:00:11.780] – Ray Poynter
Hi, Ray Poynter here with another radio NewMR podcast. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Lisa Wilding Brown, the newly appointed chief executive of InnovateMR. Hi, Lisa.

[00:00:25.940] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Hi Ray, good to be here. Thanks for having me on your podcast.

[00:00:29.440] – Ray Poynter
Such a pleasure, Lisa. Let’s start with your recent news. Tell us a bit about your new role and about InnovateMR.

[00:00:38.430] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Well, thank you. Yeah. I’m absolutely thrilled by my recent appointment to Chief Executive officer here at InnovateMR. I’ve been with the business since its inception. So 2014 is when we kicked off the business. I think it was literally the first employee or one of the first. So I’ve been here for the whole time. And most of my role in the early days was really overseeing operations and working on our thought leadership. But really, when you’re a small business like that, you’re a Jack of all trades.

[00:01:07.170] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
You’ve got your hand in pretty much every Department, from product and technology to operations and marketing and sales. So that was a really great foundation for where I am today now, as CEO, really overseeing the strategy of our business, working really closely with our executive team. And our plan is really to take the business to the next level. So we’re really scaling for growth seven years old as a business. So we’re certainly not a new kid on the block anymore. About 150 employees worldwide across the US, the UK and India, and a few other countries in between.

[00:01:45.830] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so we’re really excited about this next phase of growth and excited for the future.

[00:01:52.520] – Ray Poynter
And if you have to sum up what InnovateMR is, what’s a two to three sentence summary?

[00:02:00.860] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Yeah. So we are a global sampling and research technology company headquartered in Calabasas, California, but we work with all different types of clients, whether they be small, consultancies mid to high level market research agencies as well as corporations and brands. And they come to us for a variety of different services. They come to us for sample from either our B2B or consumer panels or global panels. And the other clients come to us to help with more of the field services aspect. So programming, hosting their survey, deploying sample to that survey and providing back-end deliverables.

[00:02:40.730] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And most recently, we released a new agile insights platform called Vision that was released earlier this year. And so in that scenario, mostly brands are working with us to essentially run quick pulse studies, microburst surveys, if you will, on a wide variety of different topics and covering a wide rise of different industries.

[00:03:02.280] – Ray Poynter
Great. Okay. So your name has been popping up more and more in social media and in the sort of the research world. And it was your success in being elected to the ESOMAR Council. Well done for that. And now all of a sudden, chief executive of a company. And that looks like overnight success. And of course, overnight success is usually the result of many years of hard work and challenges. So what sort of challenges and things of you had to look at along the way to get where you are?

[00:03:34.640] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I certainly would not say it is an overnight success by any stretch. I started off in the industry in the early two. Thousands very much fell into the space like others by accident. There’s very few people that I meet that intentionally studied market research in College and pursued a career in MR. I think a lot of us come from other disciplines and areas of academia where we just are very curious and we want to help others answer questions and draw incredibly important insights to help drive business.

[00:04:12.000] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so it was not an overnight success. I started off in the research operations department over at Harris Interactive, and I’m really thankful that I cut my teeth there. I think the level of mythological rigor at Harris Interactive, especially during that time when a lot of clients were kind of exploding, exploring the benefits of online research as a new methodology, a pioneering methodology that was really kind of challenging the status quo at the time. So I feel like I landed in the industry at a perfect time.

[00:04:44.800] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so I worked in the operations team as a project manager in those early days and really helped to usher research projects through the system and really work closely with clients to help them get to those insights. And then from there, once I got that foundation, I moved over to the panel team and worked very closely with that group in building out the Harris Poll and did a lot of research on research, working really closely with the survey methodology team and understanding of the parallels between online and offline and how we could really help clients make that leap into this new sort of untested methodology.

[00:05:26.600] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so we had to really, I think, understand what the difference is, what trade offs where when you make that mythological switch. So that was just an incredible start to my career. And then really, given my experience working with Harris Poll, I knew that I loved sample. I sound like such a nerd saying that. But to me, the participant experience is really at the heart of everything we do as an industry. And just as a new fledgling researcher, I was observing some mismanagement of that participant experience.

[00:05:58.860] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so I really wanted to get my voice out there. And so over the last few years, I’ve really been very involved in the industry, participating in a lot of different conferences and thought leadership. And that wasn’t always easy. There were many, many times where I would submit a paper to speak and I would get rejected. And I just was chatting with someone recently in the industry and he’s like, Gosh, you do so many webinars and you seem like you’re really present on social media. And you’re always speaking at these conferences.

[00:06:27.730] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And I kind of said, Well, hold on a second. That took years to get to. And there was a lot of behind the scenes learning that had to take place in order to get those types of opportunities for those listening. And I would just say, don’t get discouraged. Keep putting your name out there and really work on your personal brand. And everyone has this unique voice and perspective to share. And I would just encourage people to really get involved and share that perspective in terms of learning.

[00:06:57.960] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
You know, Kristen Luck, and I say this all the time. We’ve learned from a lot of our mistakes, right? Nothing is ever perfect. There’s never this sort of straight line to success that there’s a lot of curves and hoops that you have to go through in order to get to that place. But really taking stock and looking at your career and how you’re growing it and those learnings that you get along the way that can only come from making missteps and mistakes. They can be great instructors for the future.

[00:07:29.780] – Ray Poynter
Yeah, absolutely. And to this day, I get turned out sometimes when I suggest and I put in papers, nobody gets accepted all the time. John Kearon doesn’t get accepted all the time. Finn Raben doesn’t get accepted all the time. So, don’t be put off if it takes a few goes. And if you get a chance to do a five minute slot or a newcomer face, grab it, grab anything. You’ve talked about some of the challenges that you went through. Were there any closed doors on the way through, any specific problems you want to highlight or suggest how people might get around?

[00:08:14.980] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
I mean, certainly, I think there’s been missteps or closed doors along the way. And I think it’s about remaining steadfast and your commitment to your company and to yourself and not getting discouraged. When I first started at Harris, despite the fact that I knew I landed an incredible company that really was going to give me the foundation I needed to take my career to the next level. I found when I got there that I had a different manager every year each year that I was there. And I was there for about six and a half years.

[00:08:45.840] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And that was challenging someone that was new to the industry and trying to learn all the nuance, even just our terminology, the vernacular that we use, the acronyms that we use in how we communicate are endless. And you and I take that for granted because we’ve been living and breathing in this space for so long. But for someone that’s just coming into the industry, it’s got to be so overwhelming. And so then, on top of that, have a different manager every year throughout that time frame was really challenging for me.

[00:09:18.180] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And at first I thought of it as very challenging. Of course. But then I started to think this is an opportunity. I can learn about different leadership, different management styles. I can learn just as much by watching other people’s missteps as I can by watching their successes and just really take stock and store it in that mental Rolodex of memory and information to help inform how I want to be as a leader, how I want to interact with my colleagues. And I think that’s really helped that experience of having different managers.

[00:09:53.740] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Some good, some not so good has really helped inform the way that I work with other people in my organization. So I’m thankful for that. It’s a great learning.

[00:10:03.310] – Ray Poynter
I mean, it’s a great point. You can learn from somebody who’s not a great manager in the sense of I better make sure I don’t do that. I wonder who ready do that exactly.

[00:10:15.710] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
You get really introspective as you start to observe other people’s behaviors and communication styles. If you’re really listening. And I said that in a write up that I put out on LinkedIn last week, you have two ears and 1 mouth for a reason, so you can hopefully listen more and talk less. And that’s hard for me. I’m a very extroverted social person, and I like to connect with people, but I learned so much just by listening.

[00:10:37.830] – Ray Poynter
And I think we all have to remember that things about new people who are just joining our industry. If you were 23, 24, 25, either with an undergraduate degree or have a grad school, what would your advice be to somebody joining our industry?

[00:10:59.950] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Well, there’s a lot I think if I look back to when I first started, there’s so much I wish I had known that. I just you just don’t know what you don’t know, right? And at the time, there weren’t all of these virtual opportunities for learning. So the first thing I would say is our current climate. The current landscape is incredible. On any given day, there are a multitude of different virtual webinars training sessions, town halls. There’s just a lot of knowledge sharing that’s happening in 2021.

[00:11:36.220] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
That wasn’t happening in the early 2000, when I first got started. Instead, those learnings were really concentrated to in person conferences back then. And unfortunately, as an entry level researcher just getting started, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to those conferences. You were probably already speaking at them. Are I’ve seen you speak a number of different conferences. You’re a fantastic presenter, but I Unfortunately, was not given the ticket to go watch you. But nowadays, people that are entering the space just have so much opportunity to get those experiences call from their home.

[00:12:10.470] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so I would just encourage people out there that are interested in our industry are just getting started to really take advantage of those opportunities. I think the other piece, Ray, that’s important to mention, is just the number of companies in our space. I mean, this is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the insights industry. Data is the new oil. The pandemic definitely helped to inform our need for data and our appetite, I think, has become insatiable across the board. So it’s an exciting time to be in this space.

[00:12:44.260] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And there are a lot of great companies in the mix, a lot of new and emerging companies that I think are going to be very disruptive, to say, traditional methods. And that’s really exciting. So I would just say to folks, listening, as you’re starting to think about where you want to land, where you want to start your research career, get informed, educate yourself. Don’t wait for someone to do it for you and really take stock in terms of all the different players that exist within our space.

[00:13:12.810] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And think about the type of company that you want to work at. What areas of specialty do you want to really create for yourself? What intrigues you? What will make coming to work be fun for you? Because if you don’t love what you do, you’re wasting your time. So I just think there’s a ton of opportunity and the big virtual world that we live in. There’s so much information available so people can really make informed decisions about the types of companies that they’re interviewing at and the types of cultures that you want to be part of.

[00:13:46.200] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
I think that’s really key and exciting for people just getting started.

[00:13:49.840] – Ray Poynter
So we can all make a difference in our lives, whatever stage you’re at on whatever age reaps. But when you become the CEO, you can probably make a bigger difference. So what are the differences you plan to make over the next few years, internally in your business, but also in our industry?

[00:14:12.020] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Oh, my God, that is a great question. It’s an exceptionally ambitious question to ask. Right? But I have answers. I think from an internal perspective, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built here at InnovateMR. Like I said, we’ve had good managers and bad managers in our past lives. We’ve had the opportunity to work at great companies and maybe companies that really struggled to recognize the importance of culture and building a supportive foundation for people, no matter where they sit within the organization. And so all of that, like I said, has really informed the type of environment that we’ve created here at Innovate.

[00:14:50.300] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And it’s an environment that is, I think, very flat by design. It’s very accessible, the communication and the way that we collaborate and work together and remain very consultative not only with each other, but to our clients, of course, as well. It’s a great place to work. I love coming to work every day, and I know that just from talking with people in the industry, not everyone can say that. So I’m fiercely protective of maintaining the really strong, supportive culture that that we’ve established here at Innovate.

[00:15:22.710] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
I think that’s something I want to continue to maintain and to evangelize for our team. And then in terms of really exercising my influence as a CEO, there’s some major pain points that exist within our industry, and I haven’t been quiet about them. I’ve spoken about them a lot in the past around participant experience. They are the lifeblood of our industry without survey participants. Since we don’t have data, we don’t have the opportunity to gauge how consumers feel about a particular topic or product or service.

[00:15:59.550] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And so we really need to be mindful of what we’re doing collectively as an industry, to create positive experiences for those that are taking our surveys and really demonstrating that empathy and respect is absolutely key. And I think there’s an opportunity for us to make improvement there. The other thing I feel very pass about is diversity, right? It’s not lost on me that I am a minority in the situation as a female CEO, there are not many of us, so I’m incredibly excited to celebrate that and to celebrate, really the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion not only at the highest level of an organization but throughout our organization and throughout our industry.

[00:16:46.000] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
And that’s not just to say that our staff thinking about staff and making sure that we have really great diversity and a culture of inclusion, but also applying that to our sample and really thinking about how truly representative are the results that I’m providing to my client is my sample frame balanced? Do I have nested quotas in place to ensure that each diverse cohort has a voice at the table and really promoting that and helping clients see the importance of that because it’s proven fact. Diverse teams create diverse thoughts and diverse thoughts, protect businesses from risk and help grow businesses.

[00:17:28.360] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
It’s in the data. And so I think there’s a real opportunity for us to improve on both of those within our industry. And I’m excited to have a voice and to really evangelize and champion that for our space.

[00:17:45.370] – Ray Poynter
Lisa, thank you so much. That was fantastic.

[00:17:48.850] – Lisa Wilding-Brown
Thank you so much for having me on the show. I appreciate it.