“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” —Harold Stephens
Worrying is a classic Virgo trait so I blame it on astrology, but it is a trait that does not serve me well. Years ago, the death of a loved one, a divorce, and a recession within a short span of time kicked my elite worrying skills into high gear, and I was scared. But this personal disruption trifecta forced me to make a choice: continue worrying about the future or take action to shape it. I chose the latter—frankly, the former sounded exhausting—and have spent the last 10+ years learning how to embrace change and the discomfort that comes with it. Fun, right?
On a far grander scale, the same is true in business as companies prepare for a post-COVID-19 world and its profoundly disrupted economy and society. The enormity of change—and the uncertainty of how long it will last—is forcing companies to analyze how they are weathering the storm and what that may indicate for their long-term viability. Some have or are learning to adapt and thrive; others may be facing imminent consolidation. Whatever the future holds—reinvention, an acceleration of merger and acquisition activity, or the formation of new partnerships and alliances—one thing is certain: professionals need to decide if they are going to worry about the future or take action to shape it.
Like most industries, the pandemic has had a profound impact on market research. Firms like Escalent found themselves rethinking every aspect of their businesses while pivoting in real time to take care of clients, whether protecting the steady flow of insights they rely on to make critical decisions or providing counsel in dozens of industries on short-, medium-, and long-term strategies to prepare for the twists and turns of the recovery.
In what turned out to be oddly prescient, Escalent had recently rebranded after Market Strategies International and Morpace were acquired and merged. As we embarked on our rebranding journey, we recognized that real transformation begins with a willingness to learn from the outside-in as well as a desire to identify which behaviors to aspire to and which to leave behind. One of our goals was to understand the top concerns that were keeping our clients awake at night to reveal where we could provide the greatest value. Not surprisingly, staying ahead of industry disruption was in the top three, but what was fascinating were the two distinct personas that emerged among the professionals: The Hero and The Worrier.
The Heroes are motivated by being challenged and inspired. These professionals need to push their thinking, and they want to grow their career and influence within their company. The Worriers are motivated by getting their day-to-day work done. They need to take things off their mind (and plate), and they want to go home at the end of each day not thinking about work.
It’s interesting to think about these personas from a human behavior perspective, specifically psychological inertia, which is “the tendency to maintain the status quo unless compelled by a psychological motive to intervene or reject it.” Psychological inertia is very common in the workplace. Heroes embrace change, but change triggers fear and anxiety in Worriers. And while this is a natural response, doing what you’ve always done and expecting to remain relevant while everything around you is changing is orders of magnitude riskier than learning to adapt.
Change can be scary but not adapting to a changing world is scarier.
Like everyone, we are hopeful that 2021 will bring with it healing and a return to a more normal state, whatever that may look like. Having managed change many times over not only in the market research industry but in the industries we serve, Escalent has amassed significant expertise helping companies navigate industry disruption and business transformation. We know how to tell stories that transform data and insights into a profound understanding of what drives human beings. And we help businesses turn those drivers into actions that build brands, enhance customer experiences, and inspire product innovation.
My humble advice? If something scares you, run toward it. Action helps eliminate fear, and it’s a sure sign that you’re growing. Also, it’s important to know you don’t have to go it alone—I’m fairly certain I was responsible for my therapist’s new home theater. And while Escalent doesn’t provide therapy per se, we can be a great partner. Whether you’re a natural hero or looking to leave your worries behind, send us a note to find out how we can help.