Five Essential Lessons for Insights Collaborations


Collaboration can be tricky, especially among a diverse group of brands and organizations.

But, four years into this experiment, we’re learning what makes for the most successful insights collaborations. We can say with great confidence that collaboration leads to better outcomes: more enlightening and valued insights.

Our clients and research partners embrace collaboration, with their eyes clearly on the prize of smarter designs and insights.

So, to help inform future projects, we want to share five key lessons we’ve learned along the way:

1. Different Organizations, One Team

Why, in your right mind, would anyone consider collaborating with a direct competitor? The answer is simple: doing so can help your brand win. By sharing costs, you’re can stretch your budget to fund more and bigger insights projects. By working collaboratively, you have the benefit of others’ experiences and perspectives. We like to say: when properly managed, collaboration leads to better results.

“It’s about democratizing data. After all, what really matters is how you uniquely view and activate the data.” Bob Meyers, former Global CEO Millward Brown, and Global Chairman TNS

Embrace working with other organizations and sharing a common insights goal. Learn from your fellow collaborators and contribute to the process.

2. Set Goals First, Design Second

The first order of business is to align the project’s “collaborative” on the overarching purpose of the project and the specific research objectives. From there, our research team (typically comprised of a full-service agency paired with a subject-matter expect) will scope out the project, asking for client reactions and incorporating feedback along the way.

When all parties coalesce around shared goals, a productive relationship and working process is easy to establish. On the other hand, changing objectives mid-stream can derail a project before it begins. Get on the same page early and stay there.

3. Have a Consistent Process (for everything!)

Consistency is key, especially when it comes to communication and decision-making among a collaborative.

At Collaborata, we set roles for participants, which in many ways is our secret sauce. There’s often (but not always) a “project champion” who acts as a lead client in exchange for underwriting the hard costs; “collaborators” whose input shapes the project; and “backers” who contribute financially in exchange for the end deliverables.

Our research lead sets and manages the process and expectations. So, there are no process surprises. On the other hand, we expect at least a few valuable surprises based on what the research uncovers!

4. Get on the phone! (Yes, really)

Emails are great. (Sort of.) But, email by itself is just too limiting to foster meaningful collaboration. Our research lead organizes milestone calls and sends out regular updates. We encourage cross-talk between organizations on these calls, establishing a rare environment of collaboration across multiple organizations.

We strongly believe in erring on the side of over-communicating. Make sure to proactively participate and communicate.

5. Collect feedback. Reflect. Adjust. Improve.

At the end of each project, we ask for (and share) feedback about everything: the process, the results, the surprises, the deliverables, you name it. What could have been better? What delighted you? What can we do next?

An insights collaborative becomes a honed, working group. So, one goal is to continue to achieve more together. How can we build on the previous learnings together? As trained researchers ourselves, we can’t help from asking questions to continually measure the value and role we’re offering.

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Jimmy Zollo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Collaborata -- a Chicago-based tech startup serving the insights and marketing research world. Collaborata is the first-ever platform that enables organizations to share research costs and insights. Collaborata was a finalist for the 2017 Midwest Digital Startup of the Year, the 2016 Insight Innovation Award and has been featured on Business Insider, BuiltInChicago, Greenbook, Quirks, Research Live, MRWeb, and Market Research World. For more information, please visit: Jimmy developed his passion and enthusiasm for the Chicago tech community, while driving growth at GrubHub for four years. He helped develop GrubHub's industry-leading restaurant network, traveling across the country to launch new markets and grow existing ones. Following GrubHub's IPO and merger with Seamless, Jimmy transitioned to the corporate team, leading partnerships between GrubHub and many of Chicago's leading law, consulting, tech, and marketing firms.