Monday, December 12, 2005

Deep Zaltman

Yesterday, I posted the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The question was posed in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to DEEP THOUGHT, the so-named computer created by some hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings.

When, after seven and a half million years of calculation, the answer finally turns out to be
42, DEEP THOUGHT’s creators sheepishly realize that they don't really know what the question is. DEEP THOUGHT itself doesn’t know the ultimate question to Life, the Universe, and Everything; but offers to design an even more powerful computer (which turns out to be the planet Earth) to calculate it.

After ten million years of calculation, the Earth is destroyed by a Vogon destructor fleet five minutes before the computation is complete. Instead, it turns out that they could have asked Professor Gerald Zaltman.

My blog-watching friend Rob Schoenbeck sent me an article, “What people don't know they know: Professor's seven ‘deep metaphors’ probe the psyche of consumers,” by a fairly well-known Canadian columnist, Diane Francis.

I went to her Web site to find out more about the article and the subject, only the link is down. So I Googled Zaltman, who is a Harvard Business School professor since 1991; and came up with this – which I suggest you read for the complete story of ‘The Mind of the Market.’

The article notes, “Zaltman's eponymous research tool, the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique, called ZMET for short, was designed to illuminate exactly these kinds of human conundrums, in order to observe how they might serve the study of consumer behavior.

“Zaltman’s work actually cuts across a number of boundaries. He’s a co-director…of the Mind of the Market lab, a state of the art center at HBS that utilizes ZMET in addition to digital imaging, for corporate clients as well as MBA and Executive Education students. He's also involved in Harvard's interdisciplinary initiative Mind/Brain/Behavior, and studies neuroimaging techniques as applied to market research.” Zaltman modeled his technique after a lot of basic theories of the human mind. To name just a few:
  • Most thought, emotion, and learning occur without awareness.
  • Emotion and reason are equally important.
  • Memory is story-based and readily distorted.
  • Conscious thoughts occur as images* (which the ZMET interviewee collects and manipulates with some help from the researchers).

His process is attracting oodles of attention from major companies who want to get the “real answers” to questions like customer loyalty, brand choice, and other Holy Grails of modern marketing: “remarkable insights into the motivations — and minds — within the marketplace.”

One of the results of ZMET is a composite image of what the subject thinks ands feels, like the one* upper left. In theory, then, Zaltman can deliver a picture which answers the original question put to DEEP THOUGHT by the race of pan-dimensional beings.Or – in another version of the theory – this is just part of the ongoing computation experiment set running 10 million years ago. Because (despite the proof of our own eyes when we see what TxDOT is doing to Interstate 10) the Vogons haven’t actually arrived yet.

No comments: