Organizational Research Reinvigoration: How a top-five media company reoriented itself around human insights

Christian Kugel and Cortney Henseler
AOL

Introduction

AOL, Inc. is a top five Internet company. However, since its split with Time Warner, it has struggled with the role of research, analytics and insights. In the past two years, however, the company re-oriented itself around the voice of the consumer. In doing so, research became a critical function – central to the company's decision making. This paper delves into how the team architected the turnaround and the lessons that other research organizations can take away from this experience.

The seat-at-the-table problem

For the past decade or so, market research professionals have been lamenting the fact that they no longer have influence with senior management and a seat at the table within their organizations. In fact, ten years ago, at the 2003 ESOMAR Congress, this sentiment was echoed by numerous researchers. "One of the ongoing plaints to be heard at conventions of market researchers is the palpable concern that the research is losing its impact, as consulting companies take over the job of providing insights" (Keeling, 2003). These concerns have not dissipated in the past decade, as many corporate researchers believe that they are simply order takers who are brought in too late to have any impact (Lewis, 2011).