by Zach Mullen
One of the hallmarks of an effective researcher and strategist is being able to think ‘outside.’
Outside the box.
Outside the norm.
Outside the client’s expectations.
This fall, Burke’s Kendall Nash, is taking that notion of outside quite literally as she gears up to lead QRCA’s Insights Summit on the Summit.
On Friday, September 13th, Kendall will be engaging and inspiring fellow researchers in an ‘on-the-trail’ journey of learning in the wilderness outside of Boulder, CO. As the team spends their time together scaling Colorado’s scenic front range, they’ll also reach new heights in challenging one another to become more astute, insightful, and strategic thinkers.
In advance of her trek, BeyondMeasure caught up with Kendall to find out more about the summit, the strategy, and her goals heading into the event.
Q: WHAT ABOUT QRCA’S INSIGHTS SUMMIT ON THE SUMMIT PIQUED YOUR INTEREST?
A: I’m a huge fan of immersive experiences. Any time I can engage in, or bring to my clients and colleagues something that fully engages the mind, heart, and body, I’m in! I believe people learn and grow differently when they are out of their normal environments. The idea of being in the mountains with other researchers, strategists, and marketers to spend a day stretching ourselves outside of our normal routines, technology, and thinking is hugely appealing to me.
Q: IN YOUR MIND, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR BURKE TO HAVE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN A UNIQUE EVENT LIKE THIS?
A: A growth mindset is a characteristic we value greatly. Fueling innate desires to grow is really important around here, and we’re always looking for ways to stretch clients and other researchers to take them to even greater places in their work. At Burke + Seed, we bring a lot of naturally curious people to our team who are always seeking to expand their thinking. Innovative thinking is powered by extending yourself, and we’re eager to help other people experience that kind of growth. This event is the perfect opportunity to push people into new territory, so we jumped at the chance to play a role in fostering that development.
Q: WHAT KNOWLEDGE ARE YOU HOPING TO SHARE WITH ATTENDEES?
A: A lot of people in our field wish they were more equipped to bring meaningful insights to the work they do. Becoming a more insightful researcher can be learned and practiced. A good start to the journey requires a bit of vulnerability, so I’m hoping attendees have an opportunity to reflect on their own intellectual style and walk away with tangible ways to elevate their strategic thinking.
In the Summit talk, I’ll be sharing more specifically about frameworks for gleaning insights so that we all leave with tactical strategies for better identifying and communicating insights that will help brands win in the marketplace.
Q: SIMILARLY, WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO LEARNING FROM YOUR CONVERSATIONS ON THE TRAIL?
A: When you are outside of your typical environment, particularly in nature, something pretty incredible happens. Walls seem to come down and the change in visual cues and physical space cultivate a higher level of authenticity more quickly than in a conference room. During this event, attendees will be working through guidebooks as they hike. At various points, they will be directed to engage in unusual conversations with other attendees – all designed to foster thinking beyond their normal. I’m looking forward to seeing how that impacts people in the session. But even more, I’m anticipating real and transparent discussion that will spark big ideas we can all take home with us. Often, it’s the conversations that happen in unexpected places that can plant a seed in our minds that we transfer to the work we do on a daily basis. I’m looking forward to that for everyone attending, including myself!
Q: DO YOU THINK THERE ANY PARALLELS BETWEEN AN EVENT LIKE THIS AND RESEARCH IN GENERAL?
A: Without a doubt. (And I love that question!) The best researchers have always evolved to go where the consumer is, to figure out how to best engage them, and to build rapport to get to their most authentic account of attitudes and behaviors. This event is about getting a bunch of smart thinkers together who are up for an adventure so that we can have transparent and authentic conversations in order to foster an environment where we have the best opportunity to grow. We’ll evolve during our time together and leave the Summit thinking differently than when we arrived. Research, in general, is about getting to the raw, unfiltered truth of what people want and need in the products and services they have access to in their lives. This event is about getting to the core of what researchers and strategists need to excel in their work.
Q: FINALLY, ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE, WHAT DO YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE OUTDOORS, AND HOW DOES THAT WORK ITS WAY INTO YOUR OWN, PERSONAL RESEARCH STRATEGY?
A: My tank is filled when I’m surrounded by nature. I think many of us are wired that way, but the cadence of life and work often makes it seem nearly impossible to take opportunities to refuel in that way. We feel guilty unplugging, as though we are indulging. However, I’ve noticed that my brain and heart start to do really unusual (and cool) things together when I’m sitting by the lake, hiking in the desert, or staring out at snow in the mountains. When I’m in the throes of analysis or thinking about a business challenge of one of my clients, a quick walk or a moment fully surrounded by nature can bring me a whole lot of clarity.
In the work I do with adventure brands, we’re often engaging with consumers in the context of where they are using the product or service, so I have the luxury of doing research in these fueling environments pretty regularly in those cases. But even the work we do in other industries like tech, we try to bring in elements of nature to help foster richer thinking. This includes things like thinking tours where we walk and process learning from research before heading into activation. In the quick pace of much of the work we do, this forces a moment of reflection which yields unbelievable returns for brands.
I’m always honored to speak and share with other researchers, but invite me to the mountains of Boulder to do it, and I’m all yours.
Zach Mullen is a Sr. Project Manager with Burke’s qualitative research department. He is passionate about humanizing the research experience, developing new engagement strategies, and building relationships with clients.