The View from Behind Your Desk
June 27, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 12, I had the privilege of addressing Unilever's Conference of Champions. The title of my talk was "Getting up close and personal with the consumer." One of the major points I attempted to make was that the view from behind your desk is a very limited view of the world. My point was that if we really want to know what is happening in the world, we should leave the comfortable confines of our office and meet the consumers and customers of the real world and on their turf. Don't sit back and have those working for you tell you what is going on in the day to day ventures of those in the real world. See for yourself.
In the Stage-Setting portion of the talk, I referenced an article in the Spring issue of Market Research Magazine which states, "The sad reality is that today many firms exert little effort to involve consumers in decision-making. In some cases, they're just content to settle for a few focus groups to validate ideas in which they already are intellectually or financially invested."
In the main body of the presentation, I covered techniques I have utilized in getting up close and personal with the consumer through consumer contact in the consumer's home, in the store and in CLTs. Within each of these encounter environments, I also discussed case studies, the methods, their results and the actions taken.
While it seemed to me that the presentation went well, as is the usual case, on the flight back home things I knew I should have said kept popping into my mind. One example in particular is a story often told by one of my favorite managers of all time, Lou Pritchett, former V.P. of Sales at Procter & Gamble.
The story as told by Lou goes as follows:
"I used to make a point of telling employees who visited me in my office that what you see depends on where you stand. Behind my desk was a row of four huge windows overlooking downtown Cincinnati; on the wall opposite me was a large and beautiful Japanese screen I had bought on one of my trips. I would ask my guests to describe my office, to tell me what they saw. Invariably, they would answer, "It has a large desk and four large windows." And I would answer, "No it doesn't. It has a large desk and a large Japanese screen." Then I would make the point that to me, the office did not have four large windows. It only had a desk and a large screen. Because what I saw depended on where I stood or where I sat. And what they saw depended on where they stood or where they sat."
It is time to get out from behind your desk and see what the world looks like from the other side.
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