Monday, August 30, 2010

Lessons from Hawaii

At the end of June through the beginning of July, I took advantage of Sentient’s sabbatical benefit and took off to Hawaii for two weeks in the great outdoors.  Unplugging for a full two weeks was a little bit of a challenge – I went through email withdrawal for the first couple of days.  Once I did unplug, I was able to regain some perspective outside of my computer and smartphone.

Lesson #1: You have to get dirty to find the best views.

On Maui, we drove the road to Hana and saw LOTS of waterfalls.  By far the most fun we had at one was in Pua’a Ka’a State Park.  However NOT at the lower falls that you just stroll to on the park’s walkway; instead, the upper falls aboe that one.
Lower Falls
Upper Falls
 Our guidebook, Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty (which we highly recommend), clued us in:
“There’s an awkward trail on the right of the upper falls. It first leads to a short path to the top of the falls, but if you go past it for 5-10 squishy minutes (it’s usually muddy), there’s a much heavier untapped falls and pool just above the diversion ditch that’s taking much of the lower falls’ water. When the trail gets to the elevated waterway (viaduct), you have to walk along it (which those afraid of heights will hate), then across.  Only 100 more feet upstream is your prize.”
Awkward, squishy and muddy are all understatements – the whole trail was practically a slip-n-slide.  At one point my hiking shoes were completely submerged in mud. These were new shoes when I left for Hawaii, and after this hike, they looked like this.

There were at least 3 different times where I wanted to turn back – crossing the viaduct was one of them.

But being the only person swimming in the waterfall’s pool was definitely worth all the work.

Takeaway: Don’t be content with the status quo – find new trails in your work.  From a research perspective, this could mean:
Lesson #2:  The human mind tries to relate new things to things it knows.

We also visited Mount Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui.  Going up the 10,023 feet, I saw terrain and vegetation that reminded me of the alpine climate I have seen in the Colorado Rocky Mountain National Park.  However, there were some plants, like the silversword, that I had never seen before.  We were also lucky enough to see one that was blooming – something that they only do once in their lifespan of 50 years before dying.

And then there was the crater.  This was terrain that I had never seen before, yet my brain still tried to relate it to something – namely what I imagine the terrain of Mars to look like.

Takeaway: When presenting something new, make it relevant.  For example, relate new research findings to things that your audience might be familiar with – previous research, industry news, etc.

Lesson #3: You’re more interesting when you’re moving.

Starting to wonder if I spent any time in the ocean?  Well yes, we went on a snorkel trip to Molokini.  We saw all sorts of coral and fish.

On the way back to Maui, some dolphins started swimming around our boat.  The captain stopped and the dolphins came to check us out.  They played a bit, and then started swimming away.  When the boat started moving again, the dolphins were immediately back, in front of the bow, and racing the boat – we were much more interesting when we were moving.

Takeaway: MOVE on your findings.  At Sentient, we are always customizing and finding creative and actionable ways to interpret and present research that allows our clients to:
  • Know the why behind the what
  • Easily distribute market intelligence throughout the organization
  • Take action and build consensus based upon market research
  • Have complete confidence in the analytics and validity of implications

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