Training the next generation of market researchers1

Mike Cooke and Phyllis Macfarlane
GfK NOP Ltd

INTRODUCTION

In this paper we describe how we have replaced the traditional, prescriptive methodological study undertaken by each year's graduates – usually a qual/quant mixed methodology survey for a charity – with a more 'open source' approach in which we challenged the graduates with a broad but 'real' issue facing the company, and allowed them to determine how they would approach it: defining their objectives and acquiring the skills they required as they needed them, in the style of Wikipedia, rather than us pushing the learnings at them and then presenting a fixed client brief, saying 'here's a survey – go practise'.

This is an experiential, immersive approach to developing excellence among our young researchers, but the community of practice approach also facilitates organisational change and allows us to meet the challenge of responding to our clients' needs for added value. In particular we report on the graduates' experience as they have sought to understand the contribution that social networking sites (e.g. MySpace, Bebo) and virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life) might make to the world of marketing and hence to the world of market research. We discuss how the experience will, we believe, make them better researchers in the future, the implications for future training and development programmes, and what the world of Web 2.0 might mean for us all.