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Mindset Is Everything: Death By Surveys

Before the pandemic I would receive a few requests to participate in surveys. Primarily from retail outlets I have recently interacted with. Since the pandemic I receive upwards of 15 requests a week. None are from retail. In fact, many are not in my wheelhouse whatsoever. For example:

  • The economic life cycle of plastics.

  • Survival of urban centres.

  • Tech check-in: in person business opportunities.

Many surveys start off something like this – we invite you to participate in our survey. It will only take 5-10 minutes. Click here to start. Sometimes the surveyor dangles a carrot (Yep, they still do that??) – by completing this survey you’ll be entered to win... The prize is usually a product or service from the surveyor’s organisation.

With this kind of unimaginative approach, it’s not surprising there is survey fatigue.

Observation #1: Pandemic or not it’s crucial, for private and public business sectors, to stay connected with all its stakeholders. Since in person contact and travel, is not possible right now, the thinking is let’s send out a survey to gauge how might our organisation help them manage. The thing is people are getting bombarded with bad surveys – too many surveys written from the surveyor’s perspective. What matters to them and not what’s important to you – the stakeholder. Remember ‘the life cycle of plastics’ survey mentioned previously.

Stakeholders are tired of being a resource depot for leaders to extract insights they rarely share how it will be used. Changing up the survey language is also not the answer. As leaders you want deeper nuggets of insight, not a mish mash of thoughts cajoled by the possibility of winning a prize.

Unlearning Tip #1: Another way to think about surveys is to stop surveying and start engaging deeper. Take advantage of other organisations’ bad surveys to create a more curious engagement approach. You can start by tightening up your context and give your stakeholders the space to express, in their own words, their story and experience with your products, services etc. It’s more meaningful and demonstrates you’re actually listening to your stakeholders and how much you value their time and contribution. Circling back with stakeholders’ specific feedback leads to an ongoing and more personal exchange. It’s a way to be the organisation of choice stakeholders engage with, while your competitors send out yet another death by survey.

Observation #2: A survey sent out monthly, from the business event community (a business sector we support) is from PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association). PCMA is an association based in the US and primarily has an American focus, with ambition towards being a global organisation. When the pandemic blew up (literally) the business event community and its parent business sector – the travel and tourism industry – the membership driven association’s leadership, embarked on a journey to re-invent their raison d’etre (purpose) and that of the business event community. PCMA’s aspiration is to transform how they do what they do. So, they created the ‘Recovery Discovery Journey’. PCMA landed on its plan by doing some things right. For example, they…

  • Tapped into the perspectives of a diverse group in and outside their space.

  • Published and shared the findings, consistently and frequently, with its membership and extended community.

  • Used some of the data to offer and host webinars, tutorials, new skills training programmes virtually.

Through its monthly Recovery Dashboard Surveys, PCMA generates an enormous amount of quantitative data. Where their surveys fall short, to better support its aspiration is, it’s missing the real time qualitative perspective. We define real time qualitative perspective as obtaining clarity about how stakeholders think to inspire a mindset shift. Thereby helping to transform what they do.

Unlearning Tip #2: Stop making surveys a mechanical by numbers experience only. If you want to transform what your stakeholders do, you must first shift how they think. Start by asking open ended queries or get more creative and try another way to inspire new thinking.

When KADIMA village presented it’s Unlearning Lab to the Canadian travel industry and business events community last July, we engaged participants with a statement – The travel industry and events community is expected to be one of the last sectors to recover following Covid19. The approach generated conversation thought starters that were steppingstones towards building a deeper conversation and finding common ground that was immediately actionable. Additionally, every participant felt they were personally being ‘seen, heard and understood’. From our perspective, because we activated our ‘listening skills’ first, our attention was on how might stakeholders perceive their experience? How might they act within the environment created by them for them? Our role was to provide the tools – technology and methodology using an experiential lab design.

Insights: At each touch point you must inspire your stakeholders to want to invest their time and effort to engage with you, in a more meaningful way. To accomplish this, you must create an opportunity for curiosity to emerge. Technology has come a long way, so leave the Survey Monkey for short customer satisfaction surveys. Instead use collaboration or facilitation technology to foster an environment of transparency and psychological safety, where stakeholders feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. MURAL and Howspace are two platforms that work well for this kind of collaboration.

By shifting how to think about surveys you find opportunities you may have otherwise missed with a traditional survey approach. Opportunities could include new relationships and knowledge that might have been unavailable before. Thereby gaining more clarity and ensuring optimal decisions are made. To lead and manage a world that’s in constant flux is challenging. It’s even more difficult if you are constrained by the wrong mindset.

Last Word: Did your last survey uncover a blindspot – something you didn’t know that helped you unlearn something that’s no longer useful?

Susan Radojevic…Founder of KADIMA village | Make Canada A Leader In Innovation | Prisoner of Hope. Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanRadojevic

About KADIMA village…

‘Kadima’ is the Hebrew word meaning ‘forward’. KADIMA village is a catalyst to make Canada a leader in innovation. Our goal is to help private, public, and social enterprises, manage uncertainty, obtain clarity, and make optimal decisions to stay resilient and grow sustainably. Follow us @KADIMAvillage.

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