Navigating change and chaos? Make time to just listen

Claire Rainey has experienced a lot of transformation in her career. She’s chartered new territory at large, leading organisations including Sky and Royal Mail, and now as Head of Insight at recently merged Virgin Media O2. Here, she shares her tips on tackling the challenges of change and embracing progress head-on.

Get perspective 

“It’s in my nature to plan but I realised long ago that you have to be prepared to pivot or even rip everything up and start again. Having children helped me be less wedded to plans. Before, I’d be emotionally attached to projects where now I can make a more rational choice.” 

“There’s no point in getting stressed about what you can’t change. Instead, ask yourself what is within your circle of control? What should your top priority be and, if you break that down, what actions can you take to make a difference? I gain a better perspective by thinking beyond work—about family, friends, society. There’s so much going on and the impact we can make with our lives is so important. It’s exciting to work for companies that are thriving, but also to be able to balance that with building a better world.” 

“Personally I find it also helps to bounce ideas off others. There are all these layers to people and usually we’re only aware of a few of them so often there’ll be someone in your network who can help solve a problem and you may not even know it!”

Track for today and tomorrow

“We’ve not experienced societal shifts like this since the fifties. Yes, we’ve seen incremental change, and the rise of the internet, but the pandemic triggered overnight change across the whole world. It’s created sustained habits which have quickly altered whole markets, supply chains, work habits, leisure.”

“For the last 15 years or so, research trackers have been quite flat but they’re now coming into their own. We’re seeing massive drops and spikes that really mean something and require us to change.”

“Another advantage of longer term studies is to reflect change and use it to take stock of everything that’s been achieved as a team and why you’ve had successes. Our internal tracker provides us information about the future of the business but also enables us to look back and see how far we’ve come.” 

Segment and listen to your audiences 

“Segmentation provides us with a single language to talk about our customers across the business and it also allows us to spot issues that might otherwise creep up on us. We’re each in our own personal bubbles as we surround ourselves with like-minded friends. Just because everyone in a tech-savvy office has iPads, doesn’t mean that’s true within the wider population. Attitudes can be hugely different in different geographies and age groups and if you don’t listen, you won’t realise.”

“We track views, behaviour and attitudes in our market and industry, carry out studies, work with researchers, build communities, listen to social media channels – everything to try to understand diverse points of view. And it’s not a one-off exercise. I make time each week to just listen. What’s the mood? What are people talking about? And what is the impact of that for me, for us as a team and our business? Part of our job within insight is to take that knowledge and boil it down to target the right messages to the right people at the right time. We need to resonate and be relevant to maintain commercial success.”

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