Five Principles of Creating a Disruptive Research Technology Platform

By Clint Taylor
August 29, 2014

“[Disruptive technology] needs to be created through fast, inexpensive, and flexible forays into the market and the product.  Failure and iterative learning are, therefore, intrinsic to the search for success…”

Clayton Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”

A few years ago, we set out on a mission: Capitalize on years of experience applying subconscious market research techniques that more accurately predict consumer behavior, and establish the world’s leading implicit research technology platform that does it even better. It was bold, scary, and disruptive.
The above quote from Clayton Christensen’s landmark “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is spot on. While so many strategies introducing a disruptive technology to market research must be as fluid as industry landscape, organization size, resource model, budget, competition and otherwise, there exist some pervasive principles that can make or break you when embarking on a journey where there is really no clear map for success.

Remain True to the Science

Executing behavioral research through technology requires that you also be a student of the science which validates the research methods. Understand the scientific purpose of each individual component executing the research method, like maximizing engagement for the end user, optimizing saliency by isolating signals from the noise, or locking down automated, flexible and accurate data analysis. Technologists and scientists should reach consensus that each platform component by which you execute the research through technology accomplishes what it’s scientifically intended to do.
For example, in executing the affective priming method in our implicit research platform, every prime image animates as if it is approaching you. That animation is not part of the classic affective priming technique itself, and it wasn’t created gratuitously just because we could.
We better achieved the behavioral economics effect of saliency by leveraging technology’s animation capabilities on both desktop and mobile to make brands, products and concepts more striking to each participant, thereby enhancing the accuracy of our implicit research.

Remain True to the Business

You can easily spend six months creating the most mind-blowing, gamified, motivating, scientifically valid app in the industry that is absolutely worthless.
The best technologists are both students of the business and experts in the technology that can service it. They understand that behind all the code, it’s about creating value that can be monetized, not just what technology is capable of doing simply because it can. Every component designed and technology decision made should contribute to the value of the research platform by reducing costs or increasing revenues. If you don’t know why you applied a piece of tech, it’s probably wrong.

“Eat Your Own Dog Food”

In technology, eating your own dog food is slang for internally using the products you create to validate them and continuously improve them. If you’re truly creating a disruptive, industry-shaking technology, it won’t produce revenues on Day 1. You’ll be in somewhat of an early adopter phase, and while money is easily and quickly spent, gaining product adoption isn’t always so efficient. You’ll likely need to navigate such that the technology can impact your bottom line long before the money begins pouring in.
Construct a strategy and roadmap that can both begin to make noise while concurrently impacting mainstream operations, such as increasing sales conversion by creating a differentiator in your mainstream business model while reducing costs of operational tasks like customer setup, data analysis, error mitigation, and delivery of the finished product.

You’re Customer #1, Not the Only Customer

If you truly believe in your technology’s capability to be a game changer in the industry, then treat your organization is the first customer–never the only customer. Even if your immediate plan is to develop an internal product as a driver of internal process improvement, its value as an industry disruptor will reach a level to merit introduction to broad audiences outside the organization, and that will require an architecture ready for them.
Interfaces should be designed with those in mind who lack the intrinsic knowledge of the people down the hall or even in your particular niche in the market. Data models, storage and intensive computational processes should be scalable to accommodate hundreds or even thousands of times your internal volume. The end user experience should adhere to content, guidance, form and function that can be consumed and understood outside the organization.
Wherever possible, you have to take a step away from creating what’s most efficient for you and adopt the mindset of creating what’s most efficient for anyone. When it comes time to pitch, demo or present, the only way you’re going to appeal to the markets for your product as you engage them – and in some cases even create them – is to be prepared to accommodate the masses.

Choose Cutting-Edge Technologies with Staying Power

Choosing the best cutting-edge technologies makes you walk a fine line because only the best of the cutting-edge will graduate into the mainstream, while others that may be limited in versatility or simplicity will fall into obscurity. Astute knowledge of why today’s mainstream technology languages, devices, and communication protocols have evolved to their current state, combined with their business value in markets including but not limited to your own is key to selecting the best tech out there today that will still be thriving tomorrow.
Utilizing today’s cutting-edge technologies that will graduate into tomorrow’s mainstream is absolutely critical, and it’s a criticality that increases proportional to industry competition and lucrativeness. When the best cutting-edge tech becomes mainstream, it plays well with complementary products and services that can be integral or even required to a successful entry to market, such as being usable on the billions of mobile devices in the world, being easily integrated into existing survey platforms, and being easily consumed into the analytics platforms that already house tons of existing data. When cutting-edge becomes exotic, all of the above becomes very inconvenient and costly.
If there is one overall mantra in creating a disruptive market research technology platform or any disruptive research technology for that matter, I would offer another quote, this one from the U.S. Navy SEALs: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” The technology is changing every several months. Science is constantly pulling back the curtain on more viable research techniques. Markets and competition are forever evolving. Thriving in a disruptive environment takes pragmatism, patience, constant surveying across several landscapes, constructive self-doubt, and incessant collaboration with subject matter experts. It relies on many more scientific, business and technology principles than mentioned here.
I hope some of these key principles based on my experience in both market research and beyond can be the beginnings of a solid base for how the market research technology visionaries of tomorrow can begin getting to work.

Sentient Prime Implicit Research Studies

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Clint Taylor


Sr. Vice President & Strategic Technologist, Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

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