Research is the dashboard

Jack Brabham was Australian.
In the 1960s he was one of the best Formula One drivers.
In one particular race, his fuel gauge showed he was running out of fuel.
He knew he should pull into the pits.
But he didn’t want to lose the time it would take.
He calculated that it was better to keep going.
He noticed the information from the fuel gauge.
Then he made his own decision.
He kept going.
In the final straight, just before the chequered flag, he ran out of fuel.
He got out of the car and pushed it.
With all the other cars whizzing around him.
He pushed it across the finish line.
That was the season he won the Formula One World Championship.
He didn’t let the fuel gauge dictate to him.
He took the information on board, and he made the decision.
Years later, Michael Schumacher was at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Everyone knows the lighter a racing car is, the faster it goes.
So at Monaco, all the teams started with the lightest fuel load, allowing for three refuelling stops.
Schumacher started with a heavier fuel load.
It made him slightly slower at the start.
But it meant he only needed two fuel stops.
Schumacher calculated that being slower at the start would cost him 4 or 5 seconds.
But a refuelling stop would cost him 15 to 20 seconds.
So while all the cars that had been ahead of him were in the pits, he roared past.
Schumacher won.
It’s the same in our job.
We should use information to help us take better decisions.
Not to take the decisions for us.
For us, research is like a fuel gauge.
A fuel gauge just tells you what’s in the tank.
It doesn’t tell you what to do about it.
You have to decide that.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a planner called Francis Richardson.
She left BMP to work freelance, and she’d been working at CDP.
CDP at that time was the best agency in the UK.
They didn’t have a planning department.
But BMP had a planning dept that was twice the size of the creative dept.
I said to Francis, “You must hate it working at CDP.”
She asked why.
I said, “Well you’ve come from BMP where planning is King, and gone to CDP where creative is unquestionably King.”
Francis said, “On the contrary, I’m really enjoying CDP.”
I asked her, how come?
She said, “At BMP, I dreaded it when I had to come back and debrief on an idea that had researched badly.
I walked in, and the creatives would look at me to see whether it was thumbs up or down.
They looked to see whether I was smiling or frowning, because planning had the power of life and death over their work.”
I asked what the difference was.
She said, “At CDP, they regard me as giving them consumer feedback, that’s all.
Based on what was said in the groups they’ll take a view about where they go from there. They are very polite to me.
They say, ‘Thank you very much for all your work. Now we’ve got to decide what we do about it.’
It’s so much less stressful for a planner.”
So there you have it.
When CDP was the best agency in the UK they used research like a dashboard.
For information, not a decision.

(I’m on holiday for the next two weeks, so no new posts. But I’ll be checking in to see if there are any comments that need answering.)

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    don’t things get a bit slow when Dave goes on holiday.

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    Had you considered a scenario whereby Dave had taken all his blog pals away with him on holiday [at his expense]… apart from you?

    PS I’m writing this from an exotic place and Dave is fanning me with a large palm leaf, come on Dave, a bit more effort if you please!

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    PS here’s some SCHMALTZ for you! 🙂

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    Soap Box, how kind.
    You’ve just transported me back to NYNY + marvelous marvelous memories of my time at Juilliard + the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts: sexy Irene with the poodle hairdo + Bruno who’s a wiz on the keyboards but can’t sing without making everyone else’s ears bleed. Hey, feel a song coming on myself “GRILLA’S GONNA LIVE FOREVER, REMEMBER MY NAME!”

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    a Grilla singing.. “GRILLA’S GONNA LIVE FOREVER, REMEMBER MY NAME!” while dancing on a Taxi.. ok.. now you’re making me laugh again, so much better than Phil Collins.. i’ve just had a look at Hot Lunch.. but i couldn’t see you in there??

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    Hot Lunch is for wimps, Soapy.

    Chilled Cellulose Smoothie is where the coolest dudes hang.

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    Dear beachboys,

    Been busy painting, and sowing (down on the allotment) spuds are in. Tomatos are seeding nicely, strawberries stretching their leaves and I’ve got to go and paint the living room door. A local candidate MP came round and visited me last week. What I was really impressed about was that he knew my name. What strikes me as strange is he is expecting to get elected on local issues for a national election which is a bit like asking a small allotment farmer to deliver European farming policy.

    However, the fact that he knew my name still impresses me, as to the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t even read Brand Republic. So here’s a question to break you all out of your slumber.

    Do you think the electorate will use research for information or decisionmaking?

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    In A. to your Q: some of the electorate may indeed use research for info + dm, but a higher percentage will either stick with what they think they know, make their decision on the way to the polling booth, rely on their gut instinct, or not even bother because they don’t believe they are represented by any of the parties or candidates, and they’ve lost faith in the whole democratic process as all they can see in every MP is a pig at the trough.

    PS You’ve got the banana plants in, I trust?

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    Hello Kevin

    I’ve been out planting too – moved house a couple of weeks back and now have veggie patch in my garden – tomatoes, onions and spuds in – going to go for a bit of salad too – tasty.

    I’m currently splitting my free time between gardening, building a new kitchen to cook our produce in and bouncing on a massive trampoline with the little gotnoteefs – monster fun in the sun this weekend.

    Sorry Grilla – no climate for bananas, but you’d be welcome to join us for a refreshing smoothie made of fair-trade’s finest!

    As for the GE – who to vote for – or even whether to vote at all?

    Brown is such a dour sod and his policies are miles from Labour’s home-ground – the might just as well play in blue as red.

    The Tories are a bunch of creepy mercenaries – Cameron and Osbourne look like they were grown in the same laboratory and, frankly, there’s already enough of a gap between those that have and those that have not – so is a Tory Govt what we need.

    This basically leaves the LibDems – and if they can’t decide what they stand for, how can we decide to vote for them?

    Reckon I might just spoil my paper in protest – lots of ‘Ch’ words – Choice and Change are the emptiest – what Choice, what Change… what Chance?

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    gotnoteef – I’m sorely tempted to take you up on your kind and generous offer – if only to root out the wacky-baccy plants I know you’ve secreted behind the rhubarb, and rhododendrons [yes, I did spell-check it].

    A request please before we close the deal; brief the mini gotnoteef’s not to bug me for Grillaback rides all afternoon.

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    you leave them weeds alone G – thems was put here for a reason – Jah knows.
    You – and all the other lovely folks from Dave’s board – Kev, Jayne, John W, Soapy and Tom, the Man Dave himself et al – welcome whenever you like in my rural idyl in the middle. Although quite a trek for those in yer London village – the 40 mile views from our kitchen window are worth it.
    Can’t make any promises about the little-one not hassling you – I’m on that trampoline every evening at the minute – “quick Dad, get your jeans on, let’s go outside and bounce” – before I’ve even got my boots off!

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    I completely agree. There are so many tools out the help us make decisions, but that is all they should do, help us make decisions. It is a little bit like Buffet (the investor) who says that the market is there to serve his investment demands, not to tell him what to invest in.