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Coronavirus is daunting. But is it an opportunity to do things differently?

Coronavirus is dominating the global agenda. People are understandably worried. Worried for their health, worried for the health of their loved ones, and worried for their jobs.

We’re all changing our habits. We’re reducing human contact, face-to-face meetings are becoming video conferences or postponed, and we’re all washing our hands more than we’ve ever done before. All necessary of course. But I imagine we’ll return to our previous habits once this pandemic is over.

Like everyone, I’ve been reading a lot about the Coronavirus outbreak. Two articles stick out for me because they’re focusing on some of the good things that might come out of this crisis.

One is from a GP who argues that COVID-19 will push the NHS to do a lot of the things it should have been doing already. Skyped GP appointments, the “worried-well” using 111 rather than attending their local surgery, and the vulnerable not being left in hospital waiting rooms for too long in case they’re exposed to infections.

The other is an article from Gaby Hinsliff. She talks about how society tends to accelerate change during a crisis. She gives examples of the women taking over men’s work in factories during the Second World War. It was intended as a short-term fix while men were away fighting. But after the war, many women understandably baulked at the idea of going back to their unpaid domestic role. A whole new workforce was born.

In terms of the research and insight sector, lots projects are being postponed or cancelled. The idea of doing any face-to-face qualitative research is a no-no at the moment. Lots of people are understandably talking about moving their research online and one online research platform (Watch Me Think) is offering free use of its service to help people overcome their fieldwork issues.

But what about using this crisis as an opportunity to do something really different?

What non-essential work should we stop doing?

We’re cancelling non-essential meetings and may find this is a blessing in disguise. What about re-evaluating our whole role, and in particular, all of the research we commission? I saw a stat that only 14% of insight clients think their insight leads to action in their organisation. That’s 86% who don’t think (or don’t know) whether it leads to action. That’s a huge amount of wasted time, effort and budget. Is all the research in those businesses really essential?

Have we pulled together what we already know?

With schedules disrupted, many meetings cancelled and fewer research projects in general, what about using this time to curate the insight you already have? Pull together the single deck that summarises all you know about your customers, where the gaps in your knowledge are, and where the opportunities are for more insight.

Are we making the most of our past research?

Think about using the time you’ve saved commuting to revisit old reports, check transcripts again for fresh insight, re-watch those videos of groups from last year. All of this is good practice and it’s something we as a sector don’t do enough of.

I don’t have the answers. I’m just posing the questions.

People are scared and I understand that. I have children and elderly members of my family just like everybody else.

But from this crisis there will be some positive outcomes. And this thought is helping me stay calm among all the chaos.

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