Dieting with Data

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things about the holidays is all of the great food that we get to eat. In just a month-and-a-half, we get to enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving Turkey, succulent Holiday ham, and our favorite hors d’oeuvres on New Year’s Eve. It’s during these wonderful days I find myself overindulging in these rich, delicious foods.

With the new year comes new resolutions, and mine this year once again include losing weight (but this time I mean it.) It’s also a great time to make resolutions for your career or business, such as aiming to be more decisive or to better understand your customers. When the first step towards achieving those resolutions involves gathering data, just like when dieting it’s important that you don’t overindulge.

Recent trends have continued towards gathering as much data as you can and using it to make data-driven decisions. As I’m sure you know, here at Corona we love data; everything we do is driven by data. However, having too much data can often-times be crippling. You might have more than you know what to do with, or you could simply not know how to properly analyze it. It’s also possible that, even if all of that data is analyzed, you could be faced with a paralyzing number of options and decisions to be made.

So how can you ensure you collect a healthy amount of the right data? Similar to dieting, it’s important to always start with a clearly defined goal. Once your goals are well-defined, they inform the rest of the process: What questions should be answered? How is the data gathered – is there previously collected data that can be used, or should new data be gathered from survey(s), focus groups, or something else? What analyses need to be done to accurately answer the questions? Finally, the goals will let you know if you’re in over your head and need help.

Hopefully we can all stick to our resolutions, because when you look back a year from now you’ll only be thankful you did.

Harness the Power of Cumulative Effects

This week we’re all getting a fresh start with the new year.  The start of a new year is one of several “fresh start” events (along with birthdays, 1st of the months, Mondays, and so on) throughout the year that provide motivation to embark on changes.  New research shows we use these events to mentally distance ourselves from our past, less perfect, selves and decide we can be different moving forward.

At Corona we use the start of the year as an opportunity to take stock and make resolutions both personally and for the firm.  But we’re in a unique position in that it’s part of our day-to-day jobs throughout the year to think about behavior change from a variety of angles:

  • We design evaluations to measure behavior change outcomes that result from our clients’ interventions and campaigns to encourage and support behavior change (e.g., tobacco cessation, seatbelt wearing, teen pregnancy prevention, DUI prevention, increasing healthy behaviors, and many more).
  • We conduct research to gather data about motivators and barriers to change to help clients develop behavior change interventions and campaigns.
  • We provide strategic planning services to help clients take stock and set goals to move their organizations forward.

This year, as you think about the changes you’d like for yourself, your organization, or the groups you serve, think about cumulative effects.  Many of the behaviors we seek to change are habits – behaviors that we make repeatedly and automatically.  And our status at the end of the year is the result of adding up all of those actions throughout the year.  Every time you choose fruit instead of candy, every time you suck it up and go to the gym instead of watching TV, every time you don’t light up that cigarette in the car, you’re adding a data point to your cumulative health status.  Similarly, the choices you make for operations-as-usual within your organization will add up to your impact, your profitability, your employee engagement, etc.

Changing habits requires you to automate a new behavior to replace the undesirable one.  Practice, practice, practice is the road to automation.  At first it will take a lot of conscious effort to remember and apply the new behavior, but the more you do it, the more automated it will become.  And before you know it, it will be the new normal and you/your org/your clients will be the better/happier/healthier/wealthier version you imagined.

Good luck with your resolutions for the new year!  And if you need any help setting goals, gathering data, or measuring behavior change, we’re here to help!

The Challenges of Measuring Home

Home has many different definitions, both physical and conceptual.  It is where the heart is, according to Pliny the Elder, or it’s where you keep your stuff according to George Carlin.  It’s a structure, a family, a memory, or just anywhere you feel comfortable.  Or maybe it’s all of these things.

I spend a fair amount of time on the road, traveling for work or for pleasure.  While my true ‘home’ is certainly Denver and my house and my wife, I fall into the camp that believes that ‘home’ can exist in other places as well.  If my stuff is there and I’m sleeping there, it’s home, even if it’s just for a night.

I started thinking about where these temporary homes have been, and decided to do an analysis of it, because, you know, that’s who we are here at Corona Insights.

Like most data analyses, the question becomes more complicated once you start measuring.  The first issue is scale.  What am I measuring?  Is it as specific as a hotel room?  The hotel itself?  The city?  The state?  If I measure actual hotel rooms, the data is so detailed that it’s not particularly useful.  And if I measure it on a state level, then I omit a lot of overnight trips in Colorado where my ‘home’ for the evening was not in Denver.  I needed to define my research goal to answer this question.

The second issue is how I classify data.  It seems like measuring where one spends the night is easy, but is it?  I’ve spent some nights on long-distance flights, so is ‘home’ the destination, the origin, or the plane itself?  The same question arises on overnight train trips.  Was my ‘home’ in the state where I went to bed or the state where I woke up or the state where I spent the most sleeping hours?

And ships make things even more complicated.  I’ve slept on ships in international waters, ferry boats plying coastal waterways, and cruise ships docked in port.  What are the rules?

The third issue is developing and verifying a data source.  In this case, I frankly relied on a very healthy memory for trivial facts and a couple of calls to my parents.  Sure, I could dig out 50+ years of receipts, but in this case my research goal was to develop a good overview.  I could be quite accurate just based off memory and a very structured system for testing that memory, even if perhaps my precision isn’t perfect.  Do I remember if I spent 8 nights in Madagascar or 10?  No, not really.  But that’s not necessary to achieve my big-picture goals.

Like any data analysis, one has to define rules for classification, stick with them, and document them.  So I pondered my goals, and decided on the following rules:

  • I decided that my research goal was to measure where my nightly ‘home’ was, rather than the nights spent away from my primary home. This is in keeping with my philosophy that home is where I’m sleeping that night.
  • I decided to measure based on state for domestic travel and nation for international travel. This was a bow toward creating easy to digest data and keeping the data presentation manageable.
  • I decided that sleeping on a moving vehicle that crossed multiple states or nations would mean that ‘home’ was the vehicle. Sleeping in a stopped vehicle would count toward the land that was underneath the vehicle, and sleeping in a moving vehicle that did not cross multiple states or nations would count toward the land beneath the vehicle.
  • In the case of ships, the above rule would generally apply, but with some specific additional interpretations. “International Waters” would be equivalent to a state or nation, and if the ship did not enter another jurisdiction that night then my ‘home’ was International Waters.  However, if the ship crossed international waters between an origin and destination in the same state or nation, then my home was that state or nation.  For example, an overnight ferry in 1997 that crossed the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to Melbourne counts as Australia in the data, while bouncing from island to island in the Aleutians aboard the Alaska Marine Highway System counts as Alaska even if the ship occasionally ventured into international waters en route.
  • In the case of air travel across multiple time zones, I would merely count a 24-hour cycle from the time of takeoff. Otherwise the data get skewed by long east-west trips given time changes.

So in summary, it seems really straightforward to measure where you spent the night, but you still have to define rules to deal with ambiguity.  If spending that night requires a half-dozen rules, one realizes the extent to which we have to define rules in our more complex demographic analyses.

After defining the rules, the data collection began.  It primarily involved developing a list of states and nations and then asking myself, “when have I ever been there”?  I also asked my parents a few odd questions, such as, “Remember that time we drove cross-country to Disneyland in 1966?  Did we spend the night in Utah or Nevada along the way”?

The process went relatively smoothly overall, and I present to you below a compendium of every state, nation, and moving vehicle where I’ve ever spent the night (including leap years).

Kevin Travel Table second half


And to make it easier on the eyes, here’s a map, courtesy of Matt Bruce.








So what did I learn from this?  Aside from recognizing that I like to analyze things a little too much, I learned several things, with the following highlights.

  • Missouri had more than a 50 percent market share until approximately November 26th of 2013. It now stands at 48.0% and no state has a 50% market share.
  • I’ve lived in Colorado for over 22 years, but am still trailing Missouri. At my current rate of travel, Colorado should move into the #1 ranking on approximately September 30th of the year 2020.
  • I’ve spend 1.5% of my life sleeping in foreign countries. That’s a lot more than I would have expected.
  • Six of my top 20 temporary homes are foreign countries and two are transit homes (ships and planes), but that’s understandable. Vacations overseas tend to be longer, so I spent more time there once I arrived.
  • California will very likely move into the #6 spot in 2017, if not 2016.
  • I really need to get to New England.

And that conclusion about liking to analyze things too much?



Top 10 Radiance Blog posts of 2015

It’s that time of year, when we look back and look forward.

If you’re looking for a little reading this last week of the year, then here is a shortcut for our most popular blog posts of 2015.

10. Corona Summer Camp 2015: AAPOR

9. Wondering if you’re normal? The answer is probably yes.

8. Graphs: An effective tool, but use them carefully

7. It’s All About How You Ask

6. Visualizing data: 5 Best practices

5. Once an engineer, always an engineer?

4. Brand Tracking for Sustained Growth

3. Of anchors, sails and strategic plans

2. Welcome, Gregory!

1. Knowledge About Knowledge – Trivia Crack Evaluation Measures (be sure to read the whole series)

Thank you to the thousands of you who have stopped by our blog this year.  We look forward to sharing more with you in 2016.

(And to keep in touch, be sure to sign up for our newsletter!)

Who’s Excited for 2016?

Oh man, where did 2015 even go? Sometimes the end of the year makes me anxious because I start thinking about all the things that need to be done between now and December 31st. And then I start thinking about things that I need to do in the upcoming year, like figuring out how to be smarter than robots so that they don’t steal my job and learning a programming language since I’ll probably need it to talk to the robots that I work with in the future. Ugh.2015 Calendar

Feeling anxious and feeling excited share many of the same physical features (e.g., sweaty palms, racing heart, etc.),  and research has shown that it is possible to shift feelings of anxiety to feelings of excitement even by doing something as simple as telling yourself you are excited. So, let me put these clammy hands to use and share some of the things that I am excited about for 2016:

  • Technological advancements for data collection. Changes in phone survey sampling are improving the cell phone component of a survey. Also, we have been looking at so many new, cool ways of collecting data, especially qualitative data. Cell phones, which are super annoying for phone surveys, are simultaneously super exciting for qualitative research. I’m excited to try some of these new techniques in 2016.
  • Improvements in the technology that allows us to more easily connect with both clients and people who work remotely. We use this more and more in our office. I’m not sure if in 2016 we will finally have robots with iPads for heads that allow people to Skype their faces into the office, but I can dream.
  • Work trips! I realize that work trips might be the stuff of nightmares at other jobs. But Coronerds understand the importance of finding humor, delicious food, and sometimes a cocktail during a work trip.
  • New research for clients old and new. This year I’ve learned all sorts of interesting facts about deck contractors, the future of museums, teenage relationships, people’s health behaviors, motorcyclists, business patterns in certain states, how arts can transform a city, and many more! I can’t wait to see what projects we work on next year.
  • Retreat. For people who really love data and planning, there is nothing as soothing as getting together as a firm to pore over a year’s worth of data about our own company and draw insights and plans from it.

Alright, I feel a lot better about 2016. Now I’m off to remind myself that these clammy hands also mean that I’m very excited about holiday travel, last minute shopping, and holiday political discussions with the extended family…

Reluctance: the antithesis of leadership

All too often strategic success is stymied by reluctant leadership. Reluctance can be seen in behaviors small and large. In essence it’s a failure to act. That action may be as simple as stepping up to fill a gap. Those small misses create a culture of excuses, shrugged shoulders, and not heeding the call for help. It leads to a false sense of comfort.

At the strategic level, reluctance is manifest in the inability to make decisions or its opposite – going along with a poor decision rather than speaking up and calling the question. Flip sides of the same coin, both result in missteps, poor investments, missed opportunities and a culture of excuses. But hey, we still feel comfy don’t we?

There’s the old saying that if you want something bad enough you’ll stare fear in the face to achieve it. Leadership requires both courage and the ability to face discomfort for the larger good. This is especially true when facing hard truths and ensuring decisions are truly strategic.

As you prepare for 2016, ask yourself, “If not me, then who?”

Let your answer be “yes.”

One Plus Zero Equals Ten: The Perspective of a Three-Year-Old

At Corona, we strive to reveal the most relevant insights for our clients, and I’ve recently wondered if thinking differently will help me achieve this outcome? If thinking differently comes from being creative, then maybe I should learn from someone who is very creative – my three-year-old son. Unencumbered by experience, his imagination runs wild.

Although my son frequently expresses his creativity, it’s clear that his analytical mind is developing too.  For example, he is learning simple arithmetic.  From his car seat I hear him recite:

  • One and one is two
  • Two and one is three
  • Three and one is four

His creative and analytical minds collided recently, and the result surprised me. While we were shopping for groceries, my son asked if I knew that one and zero is ten? “One plus zero is ten?” I replied with clear disbelief in my voice. He looked at me and nodded with such confidence that I knew something was up.  Again he said that one and a zero is ten.  I forced myself to empty my preconceptions and explore the meaning of these words from his perspective.  As my brain churned, the fuzz around his logic became clearer.  I realized that he was not adding the value of one and the value of zero (i.e., 1 + 0), but rather he was combining the number one with the number zero (i.e., “1” and “0” = “10”).  I conceded to this simple and accurate, yet profound lesson.

As I look forward to finding creative solutions to our inevitable research challenges, I’ll remember that a useful complement to experience is fresh eyes.

Magic 8 Ball Says…Outlook Good!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time of year where you’re thinking not only about turkeys, in-laws and shopping, but also reflecting on what you’ve accomplished in the last year.  For me, this November marks my one-year anniversary with Corona Insights, and since Gregory joined our team this fall, I’m officially no longer the newbie! Future

It’s also the time of year when many start thinking about what the future may hold for the year ahead.  While I wouldn’t recommend calling me for your late night psychic readings (as I feel my fortune-telling skills are still a little below average), I can predict what you can expect if you hire Corona Insights for your research needs.

  • You’ll learn something new…One of the most exciting things about research is finding that nugget of information that you never knew existed. After conducting research, you’ll have a far better understanding of what your customers are thinking, some of which you’ll be hearing for the first time!
  • And you’ll confirm what you already know. Our clients are experts in their fields, so it’s no surprise that some information uncovered by our research confirms what they already know, and that’s a good thing! Having research and data to back-up what you already believed about your organization can be instrumental in making sound decisions to guide your organization forward.
  • You’ll be surprised by what people know…When I first started at Corona, I sometimes worried that people would not know enough about a topic or have enough opinions to fill the time of a full focus group, but my worries quickly melted away. People love to be asked their opinions, and are usually more than willing to share, even if they don’t know a lot about the topic.  Learning about people’s perceptions and opinions (even from those who don’t know a lot about your organization) and where those thoughts come from is extremely valuable.
  • And probably frustrated by what they don’t. I’m sure there is nothing more frustrating for our clients observing focus groups than hearing participants say they haven’t heard of their organization, or have misconceptions, despite all their best marketing efforts.  Understandably, clients often feel the urge to run in to the group and tell participants the real story.  But, from Corona’s perspective, it’s a GOOD thing to hear about what people don’t know, as well as their misconceptions.  After all, it’s hard to enhance your work when you don’t know what you most need to improve upon.  While it may be frustrating to hear, it’s probably part of why you decided to conduct research in the first place!

Above all I can predict (even without consulting my Magic 8 ball) that at the end of the day, you’ll come away with actionable insights.

New Case Study: Children’s Museum of Denver

We are excited to share a new case study about our work with the Children’s Museum of Denver. This case study in particular is a real treat to share, as it is such a great example of a client taking research findings and capitalizing on the information gained to create a truly inspiring result.

You can view the case study here.

This research helped the museum further understand their customers’ perceptions and desires as the organization planned their future goals, and eventually led them through an era of growth.