Today some colleagues and I have been discussing with Dr Michael Smets (@michael_smets), from the Centre for Professional Services Firms at the University of Oxford. We’ve been gathering insight from Michael on his team’s studies in firms, often in financial services companies engaged in reinsurance (like his recent study on Lloyds of London) or investment banking. Smets was ranked last year as one of world’s top 40 business academics under 40.
Much of his recent work has involved video, which has an advantage over audio in that it gives meaning to silence. Video recordings are certainly much more real, and it allows you more quickly to show to the people we are researching what they are doing. Looking at the same problem in multiple places enable us to see how different professionals deal with the same problem. Artefacts are phenomenally important, and being in Lloyds’ iconic building allowed them to feel the energy on the busiest days, to smell the booze after long Friday lunches, also enabled them to get different perspectives.
Of course, not every research question requires video. In some of my recent research, I have been asking analysts about the rise of automated research. Video certainly would have allowed me to make more impact with my research, but it was enough for me to ask analysts to talk me through their approach to the new opportunities to use external data, especially users’ reviews of technology firms, and to represent data graphically.
It’s easy to imagine, for example, that video would tell us a lot about analyst briefings: even those which happen online. Indeed, perhaps a video would tell us a lot more about participants in online briefings, who typically are looking at shared slides rather than at video of each other. We can imagine the eye rolling, muted chatter, multi-tasking, walking away, housework, hasty eating and other multi-tasking that is hidden on audio conferences but which would allow us to understand better what makes briefings valuable. It’s fascinating, in fact, that very few analysts take the opportunity to ask for the video feed of the people speaking to them: perhaps that’s because they don’t want to have to lose control of what else they are doing on the call.
Video or audio both allow rich analysis: Such as using time series to compare the different talk-tracks that happen in parallel between colleagues: icebreaking, gathering data, offering advice, Meta-discussion about structures, asking questions and so on.
Perhaps Michael’s most practical point for me, however, is that memory is never as good as you remember. He found it crucial to write up notes straight away, or to find somewhere private to record audio notes to be typed up later on because even the next day one’s ability to recall events or to fully make sense of handwritten notes is significantly reduced.