We’re proud to share Kelton’s Mark Micheli was chosen for the 2020 GRIT Future List — an awards program that recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, and a passion for excellence in the next generation of insights creators, users, and marketers. Selected from hundreds of nominations, Mark was honored as a rising star in the expanding insights universe.
Check out his recent spotlight interview here.
GRIT Future List Spotlight: Mark Micheli
By: Colleen Kennedy
The GRIT Future List Spotlight focuses on one honoree each interview, allowing you to become better acquainted with the future of insights. We sit down with Mark Micheli, how he went from journalism to insights and the insights industry’s reaction to COVID-19.
When did you know you wanted to enter a career in insights, and what inspired you?
I didn’t! And I’m still not sure how I ended up here – or if I’m technically in “insights.” What I know is that I hate the term “career pivot.” I often describe my career to clients and students as a “snowball” – each experience I’ve rolled into has been additive, building me up as I went and rounding out my perspective. As a journalist, I felt we did a great job of telling human stories but not of understanding our audience. So I rolled into marketing, where I found we did a better job of understanding our audience but lost the human connection that gave our understanding context.
It was when I rolled into UX and human-centered design that all the seemingly disparate experiences I acquired suddenly clicked into place. So, I think what inspired me was a perpetual dissatisfaction with my own ability to ask questions in a way that felt true – and the self-imposed limits of how you’re “allowed” to ask questions if you adhere to any one discipline too much.
Where do you see the future of insights heading in the next 10 years?
I think COVID-19 has shown how quickly societal orthodoxies can be undone – and how important human connection is and always has been. The next decade will be defined by what we’re experiencing this very minute, and research will play a crucial role in navigating the way forward. Long-standing norms about who we are, what matters to us, our place in the world, and how we relate to (and care for) one another are shifting – and the role of insights will be to listen, harder than ever, to understand what matters to people first, brands second.
When the system breaks, the system needs to be revisited. The insights world will move beyond simple call and response research and firmly into a place where we take an ecosystem view of everything. We can’t understand or create strategies to influence human behavior if we don’t first understand the systems – political, cultural, and technological – that incentivize that behavior in the first place.
What are the three skills you believe to be crucial to succeed in market research?
This might sound obtuse – but I think you need three skills. That’s it. You need to have a wealth of knowledge in at least three disciplines and be a skilled translator between the seemingly conflicting domains within yourself. In technology, they invented the role of the “product manager” to capture this need. Someone who is equally responsible for technology, design, and business outcomes. In research, we have a lot more free reign about what prior experiences we bring to the table – but you should aspire to be a translator between disciplines and tribes. It’s what gives you perspective on how to attack a research problem with creativity and rigor, but also empowers you to know how to speak different decision-making languages and, ultimately, inspire teams to get stuff done through research.
If you could change one thing about insights, what would it be?
Gatekeeping. Whether you call it market research, user research, customer experience, service design or something else entirely – there’s too much hiding behind the terminology, methods, and an unspoken rule that only some people in organizations (by virtue of their “background”) have the right to speak for customers. As I see it, the insights, design, and business worlds are on a beautiful collision course. Highly collaborative, interdisciplinary teams are the only way to not just do research – but build something valuable from it. Insights are a means toward influence – and we’re ultimately aiming to influence decisions that make something better for someone. I think this continuing disciplinary convergence will help us focus more clearly on the end goal and consistently take action that matters for real people.
Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?
Nintendo – some things never change.
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