I OBJECT: My reaction to Per Håkansson’s talk at #IIeX @perhakansson MRX


It’s rare that a conference talk generates outright rage but that’s what happened today. Twitter got angry and an audience member asked a question that didn’t get answered.

In his talk, Per Håkansson (Per on twitter ) shared his personal experience as a digital nomad. He shared that he owns about 100 items, and own no car, no home, no TV, no CDs. As a beneficiary of the crypto currency movement, he travels the world and has lived in many different cities. He shared that this could be, or will be, the way of the future for most people.

So why were some people so enraged, myself included?

I think it was two-fold.

1) The talk wasn’t focused on the needs of the marketing research audience. As a personal story of how he weaves in and out of different cities with little physical baggage to restrict his movements, it was a fun tale. But it wasn’t a market research tale.

By not focusing the content to the needs of the audience, we were left clinging to irrelevant pieces of information. We heard a fun tale of a wealthy, white person on extended holidays. Instead, we needed to hear a tale of how research companies can support a nomadic lifestyle that might be more attractive to younger workers, e.g., remote employees, no need to buy physical offices and a central location. And this extends to our services, e.g., we can store data and reports in the cloud, use Software as a Service. It can extend to employee benefits, e.g., healthcare services that are accessible in many countries. This is the story we needed to hear.

2) Further, we heard that many/most people should/will become digital nomads. By renting BnB residences, using public transportation, and using Netflix and Spotify, we can free ourselves of physically owning stuff we don’t really need. As someone who doesn’t own a phone or a car, I’ve got an overwhelming surplus of diggity with that.

Of course, this idea doesn’t account for all the people who make public transportation and hotels and restaurants happen – bus drivers and cleaners and repair people, housekeeping staff, restaurant servers and cooks and dishwashers, all of whom earn extremely low wages and live pay check to pay check (as 78% of American do according to Diane Hessan).

These support people make it possible for wealthy people to zip around the world and live in luxurious places. These support people can never ever dream of living a romantically nomadic lifestyle. Besides, most jobs can’t be virtual jobs – 13% of jobs are mining/construction/manufacturing, 12% of jobs are health care, 10% are in leisure/hospitality, 12% are government.

On the other hand, Sinead Jefferies wrote this excellent post on Research Live in which she advocated for workplace flexibility and how it could help retain the best talent within our industry. This, I think, is the story that would have resonated with more people as being realistic and relatable.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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2 responses

  1. While its lovely to have first time speakers its good there be some level of curation and common sense-check filtering. Some conferences put in a filter through requesting papers, or a peer review – IIeX very badly needs this

    I think Per has a thick hide… or maybe this is what he wanted all along…

    loved your piece

    1. Thanks for your comment and the compliment. 🙂

      The conference organizers do a lot of filtering before speakers are selected. At the same time, we choose start-ups and new to the industry speakers because they are often best able to shake up the status quo and make people think differently. It’s risky to choose people like this because it means we get some sales pitches and some awkward speakers, but at the same time we get some fabulous topics you’ll find nowhere else.

      I’m sure he does, and I’m sure the attention is desired.

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