The New Age of Exploration

Did you know that NASA discovered a new planet with four suns last week? Actually, that’s not true. NASA didn’t discover it. It was discovered by amateur astrologers searching through data provided by NASA from the Kepler Space Telescope that has been available through a project called Planet Hunters. Is this the ultimate exercise in crowd sourcing?
I heard about this last night at the 125th Anniversary Party for National Geographic, one of our clients.  The theme of the year-long celebrations is that we are in a “New Age of Exploration”. Also present were four young explorers who did a short slot each about their projects and adventures.  All very inspiring – especially when you consider most were in their late 20/early 30’s – and had between them done things as diverse as cycling for four years around the world, photographed women in the Cossack military and supermodels in Serbia, become a “gorilla geographer” encouraging kids and adults to see the world differently, or founded Slothville – home of the sloth appreciation society!
What became instantly clear, is that in the new age of exploration, these adventurers and explorers were using technology and social media to tap into an enormous variety of applications to not only conduct their work, but also share it.  And that can be the photographer loading pictures straight to the National Geographic tablet application via instagram, the rower across the Atlantic talking directly to a class of school kids from the middle of the Ocean, editing films to show our big cityscapes in new ways, or Lucy Cooke getting millions of views on her sloth films through re-tweets and viral contacts.
All talked about their old heroes, and all are undoubtedly talented and often highly qualified in their field.  But what struck me most was the “everyman” quality they stressed, and the way they no longer need a team of thousands and serious financial backing to explore and navigate the world and beyond, and also reach out to a wider audience. They also encouraged all of us to get in touch with our inner explorer, get off our “arses” and go discover something.  Alistair Humphreys talks about “microadventures” – and the discoveries he made from walking round the M25 motorway (the orbital motorway round London) in the middle of January. 120 miles, 8 days, snow, and he slept under a canvass tarpaulin! Take a look. He’s funny, slightly mad, and from sipping a glass of wine with him I can also say a very nice guy.
Now here comes the rather laboured metaphor with market research and InSites Consulting.  It seems that we are in the right time and space when it comes to harnessing the power of technology to conduct research and explore on a global scale in a way never previously possible. Through our online and mobile methods, and new global community moderator network we can talk to people in almost all corners of the world. And we also utilise that same technology to share the story via webinars, blog posts and social media (our latest Social Media Around the World Study has been viewed 140,000 times on SlideShare) and connect with an audience never before possible.  But not only do we have the people and technology to make this happen, we utilise techniques which make our participants into researchers.  Of course we want companies to explore and understand their brands through our Consumer Consulting Boards, and engage in structural collaboration.  We also harness participant power through crowd sourcing of ideas, asking participants to act as co-moderators to understand and ask questions we would never think of due to their closeness to a topic or even asking them to act as co-researchers.  As co-researchers they help us generate more and better insight, and even challenge and fine tune our conclusions, uncover new discoveries, help us produce better business insight and look at the world differently.
So I say; celebrate the New Age of Exploration with National Geographic, and welcome to the New Age of Taking Research Forward with InSites Consulting!
By Simon McDonald, applying for role of CEO (Chief Exploring Officer)

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