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Time to Test Your Intuition?

Guest Article by Sandra Harbrecht Ratchford, Paul Werth Associates


When it comes to an appetite for telecommuting, you might think tech-savvy younger workers would be most on board with it, right?
Wrong, according to recent research by the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In that state, it’s Baby Boomers who telecommute most.
Other research, by consumer engagement platform Braze in collaboration with a financial services consultant, revealed major perception gaps between consumer expectations and brand communications. It showed that only 39% of consumers believed communications from their financial services companies aligned with their needs; only 41% were satisfied with the messaging they were receiving.
Both cases confirm something we’ve long believed: While research is an important way to validate what we think we know about customers, the surprises are what can truly change the game.  
The Minnesota research will help transportation officials better understand commuter traffic patterns, impact on vehicles and what the transportation’s own workforce may look like in the future. Understanding how financial communications fall short of customer expectations can help banks and others right the ship with new messaging and customer engagement strategies.  
Intuition has its place. When faced with two valid choices, going with your gut often pays off. The value of research is its ability to ferret out information that is counterintuitive, the surprise nuggets of gold that can change thinking and strategies in ways that lead to better outcomes.

Zora Neale Hurston, an American anthropologist known for her work on the African American experience, called research “formalized curiosity." We look at it that way, too.

In our experience, the most successful organizations are curious ones, always striving to better understand what makes stakeholders such as employees, customers and policymakers tick. It’s one reason we partner on the Gongwer-Werth Legislative Poll, a periodic survey that helps us and other Ohioans understand how legislators are thinking about important issues.

While formal research may include tools such as surveys and focus groups, informal research can be as simple as making a habit out of asking good questions. Either way, there is always something to learn beyond what we already know — or think — to be true.

Every business leader seeks to understand his or her constituents in order to keep up with their changing needs and expectations. While intuition and anecdotal information can be helpful, digging deeper can reveal game-changing surprises. And surprises that occur before a major investment of time and dollars are always better than surprises after the fact.


Sandra Ratchford was a past speaker at OAMES Annual Meeting & Exhibition.  

Sandra Harbrecht Ratchford
President and CEO
Paul Werth Associates

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