Editor’s Note: This subsection is featured in the GRIT Insights Practice Report. The GRIT Insights Practice Report is your #1 guide to brand success in the insights industry, featuring the GRIT Future List, client perspectives, and emerging methodologies. You’ll learn what’s making strides, what trends are worth following, and where your company fits into it all.
Buzzwords are underrated. While acknowledging the risk of an overgeneralization, it seems to be perennially in vogue to complain about the use of buzzwords. A simple search for “why people hate buzzwords” reveals thousands of articles and posts bemoaning buzzwords. TrustRadius’ list of the 119 most-hated buzzwords includes facepalm-inducing words like “low-hanging fruit,” “agile,” and “synergy.” Perhaps the reason why people dislike buzzwords is that they are commonly associated with BS. Too often, buzzwords are used to impress rather than inform.
But buzzwords represent important topics of change in any industry. They shouldn’t be ignored and are likely underrated because of the high levels of BS that surround them. Buzzwords serve as an important signal of coming waves that will impact researchers soon, despite the noise that can accompany them. Five years ago, common research buzzwords were topics like “mobile research,” “disruption,” and “big data.” Now, these practices are commonplace.
As buzzwords move from potential future trends to practices, they migrate from buzzwords to just…words.
The 2019 GRIT Business & Innovation Report, identified the hottest industry buzzwords as “artificial intelligence” and “research automation.” I’m sure I’m not alone in having engaged in some eye-rolling when I’ve seen these topics addressed. In fact, both terms were rated by GRIT respondents as topics they were both most optimistic and pessimistic about!
While both AI and automation certainly have their share of BS’ing prognosticators, there are many real applications for both I’ll highlight here.
If we define research automation as efforts to reduce or eliminate human effort with software, then automation is already exiting the buzzword stage and becoming incredibly commonplace. For instance, sampling powerhouse Lucid introduced programmatic (including automated) sampling several years ago, replacing the once complex network of phone calls and emails that connected sample providers to provide sample to research projects. Other companies are templatizing robust survey research methodologies and packaging them into complete solutions, automating laborious tasks with lines of code.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
While the ultimate promise of artificial intelligence is to automatically create insights based on collected data, meaningful application of AI exists today and is used by forward-thinking researchers. At Fuel Cycle, we utilize machine learning for several applications, including sentiment analysis and text analytics for analyzing text, computer vision to scan photos for logos, labels, and objects that accelerate qualitative data analysis. Partners of ours like Remesh use machine learning to crystalize meaning from large scale synchronous discussions. Qualtrics developed an industry-leading fraud detection solution utilizing artificial intelligence.
Despite the fact that buzzwords can often reek of self-promotion more than insight, they’re often indicative of important topics that practitioners should consider for the future. Nearly every buzzy topic in recent memory has become a core part of researchers’ workflows. Mobile research, big data, and similar terms at peak zeitgeist a few years ago are now commonplace. So too, we should expect current buzzwords like research automation and artificial intelligence to soon lose the buzz and become just words.
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