Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Gareth Bowden. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.


Introducing Gareth Bowden

As Head of Operations at FlexMR, Gareth strategically manages the firm’s team of research experts, insights managers, and support agents. An experienced researcher who brings an academic and practical perspective to FlexMR, Gareth has previously worked on tough challenges facing governments, NGOs, and public institutions. Gareth is highly analytical and well-coordinated, and he seeks to bring out the best in every member of staff. He expertly matches team members with research projects and is laser-focused on operational success. Since joining FlexMR, Gareth has managed a series of successful, insights-led projects for the firm’s clients, whilst also spearheading new internal working policies focused on wellness, community engagement, and personal development.


What do you consider to be key characteristics or qualities of a leader? How does this play into market research?

A good leader needs to be people-oriented but also task-focused. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but if done properly can foster a really positive and productive culture. As part of this, a good leader should genuinely care about the people they work with and what they’re trying to achieve as a team. This has a lot of crossover with market research in that the researcher (and research project) should try to understand what research participants are saying and why they are saying it. For qualitative research in particular, participants are much more communicative in an environment where the research is caring, organised, and collaborative.

 

What are your market research predictions for the near future?

As both insights professionals and research participants have really transitioned beyond ‘adjusting’ to online research methods and are learning to better leverage the online environment, I think we’re currently at a point where video technology is seeing an increasingly exciting and diverse range of uses. Using videos in surveys and in asynchronous qualitative studies, as well as in focus groups and IDIs, opens up a whole medium through which consumers and participants can interact with brands and suppliers. The future of customer centricity could well be rooted in how this data is properly leveraged to empower decision making.

 

What is something you’ve built or launched that you’re proud of?

I’ve been part of building and launching FlexMR’s Close Connection Programmes, and they’re definitely something I’m proud of. We have developed a Video Close Connection Programme and a Survey Close Connection Programme aimed at connecting a wider audience within our client business with their customers. Traditionally, insights teams have perhaps been a little proprietorial over research processes, which can hamper the efforts to ensure research output and insights are activated across the business. We’ve designed these Programmes to put people from across the business in conversation with their consumer audience, but in an environment where research professionals are on hand as a ‘concierge’ to support, advise, and facilitate.

 

Do you have a mentor or role model who has made a large impact on your career? If so, who? In what way did they make an impact?

I spent my early career working in academic environments, and I was extremely fortunate to find a great mentor and friend in Professor Chris May. Chris has taught me so much in terms of finding that balance between working towards a combined goal that benefits a team and doing things in a way where I don’t lose my own voice and character. One of the best characteristics that Chris brings to any project or undertaking is ensuring that everyone has the support, autonomy, and confidence to be their best selves. I sincerely hope that my staff and colleagues feel as empowered and as ‘heard’ when working with me as I always have with Chris.

 

What changes would you like to see reflected in the industry over the next five years?

I’d like to see more focus on how data and insights are used across businesses rather than a continued (and somewhat dogmatic) focus on solely seeking to innovate ‘new’ methods of capturing data.

Another point away from a pure focus on traditional insights subject matter are the value and importance of properly embedding a culture of diversity and inclusivity across the market research and insights world. Not only does this have a clear moral and ethical basis, but it also is key to ensuring that a full range of perspective, opinion, and representation is evident in the feedback loop between companies and consumers.



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