The Judges' Perspective

15 February 2022

What makes an Insight250 Winner

10 min read
10 min read

Over 30 leading professionals have recently been named to the panel of judges for the 2022 edition of the Insight250 awards, honouring leaders and innovators in market research, consumer insights, and data-driven marketing. These judges hail from 16 different nations across six continents. They represent academia, enterprises, agencies, and associations, with approximately one third previously receiving the Insight250 award along with honorees from Significant Insights' 30 Under 30 list and Market Research Society's Research Heroes list. The panel will be chaired by Mark Langsford, CEO of mTab, with Kristin Luck, ESOMAR president, as vice-chair. 

Given these judges' diverse experience and insight, I wanted to sit down with several of them to get their thoughts and perspectives on a few different topics around the Insight250. This feature includes thoughts from Roland Abold, Vice President of Sales & Commercial Excellence from GfK (Germany), Orm (Dangjaithawin) Anantachai, COO of INTAGE Thailand, Paul Baines, Professor of Political Marketing, University of Leicester (United Kingdom), Nick Baker, Chief Research Officer, Savanta and Chair of Market Research Association (United Kingdom), Diego Casaravilla, CEO of Fine Research Latin America (Argentina), Arundati Dandapani, Chief Editor & Intelligence Officer, Canadian Research Insights Council, Tony Li, Head of Market Research, South and South East Asia Hub, Philip Morris International and Urpi Torrado, CEO, Datum Internacional (Peru). 

These experts provide their thoughts on a few key topics as they prepare to start reviewing

applications for the Insight250. As a reminder, nominations remain open until 28 February and can be submitted at

The Insight250 celebrates innovation and leadership; what do you find are the most important individual characteristics that drive success with these traits? 

“I think the most important characteristic for a successful insights professional is curiosity, as it is a basis and driver to uncover new information and hidden trends and correlations. In today's environment, you also need adaptability and agility to deal with environments and requirements changing at a rapid pace.”

Roland Abold

“Reflecting on your question, I recalled that a few years ago, during an annual conference which took place in Dublin, ESOMAR invited British adventurer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, as a keynote speaker. During his speech, he shared the main trait he used to choose to select his partners for the extreme trips he did in very harsh environments such as the Arctic or the sharpest mountains was. 

I recalled he said something like, "I look at the candidate and ask myself what is he or she going to do when the inner voice starts to tell 'please stop' because this voice will definitely be heard..." 

And I think this is a perfect metaphor of what is also needed in our own activity to become a leader. The single trait I would look after is this kind of character. No matter how much you know about the industry, at some point, you will be navigating through unknown waters and on many occasions, you will find yourself surrounded by harsh conditions. True leaders and innovators are not only those who have imagined the wildest ideas but, most importantly, those who have shown the character to resist those quitting voices - that is what Sir Ranulph was talking about - and have bravely continued advancing on what later on has become an amazing journey.”

Diego Casaravilla

“The most important individual characteristics that drive innovation and leadership today are trust, self-discipline, deep respect for others, and the ability to engage across different groups and units of people (clients, partners, colleagues, others) to build and reflect a rich canvas of experiences, values and aspirations. Understanding relies a lot on the imagination and how it adapts to new challenges, behaviours, trends and opportunities. Grit and the desire to do good combine into a powerful force for driving innovation and leadership.”

Arundati Dandapani

“Great leaders trust people; they make hard decisions guided by values and principles, fairness not popularity or short-termism. They create space for others to stand next to them and fight, to rise up and achieve together through collaboration, collective spirit and action. Empowering others, enabling collective progress and - crucially - inspiring others are the core characteristics of real leadership.  

“Innovation is not just about new new, it's also about the reapplication of existing ideas in new contexts, so innovation, innovative thinking and work are within the grasp of us all, not just the few who have genuinely brand new ideas, products or services, so a laser-like focus on the commercial impact of our work is absolutely central to driving innovation in our sector.”

Nick Baker


“There are so many ways to reveal these principles. Our daily activity contributes to the development of business and society; therefore, we are responsible for innovating and transforming this industry to keep its value. Therefore individuals should leverage:  

  • “Curiosity: always investigating, learning new things, looking for knowledge.

  • Risk-taking: willing to try new tools.

  • Open-mindedness: open to new ideas, trying to find new paths.

  • Knowledge expansion: looking beyond the numbers and data, sharing it with others.

  • Authority: being a voice.

  • Empathy: hearing to others and the capacity of understanding their concerns

  • Transcending the ego: never imposes ideas and works as a team.”

Urpi Torrado


“The insights business is driven by individuals with great curiosity about the human (sociological and psychological) condition. It’s no longer enough to produce great research (that’s a given), that research must now be useful and accessible to the organisation, so it's genuinely put to great use. This requires tenacity, empathy, and personality. Leadership is about passing on these traits and inspiring one’s colleagues to achieve extraordinary performances within their own domains. Innovation is about seeing the world differently, seeing how things could work better than they already do. This requires diversity in thinking, whether from different academic backgrounds, or different protected characteristics (like gender, ethnicity) and so on.”

Paul Baines


“Ability to embrace failure and learn to fail forward, together with the growth mindset – seeing crisis as an opportunity to build back better.”

Orm (Dangjaithawin) Anantachai


“Innovation is definitely a strategic driver in the business that not only creates new products and services for the company and delights consumers in their usage experiences. Being a leader of the category, the most important individual characteristic would be “consumer empathy,” and we (as researchers, no matter on the client-side or the supplier side or even on the academic side) should always go beyond the consumer expectations and put things into further context, from the consumer perspective. In the end, the value of an innovation is not defined by the innovator, but from the consumers.”

Tony Li

As a Judge, what are some of the top dimensions you are looking for in an Insight250 Winner?”

”An Insight250 Winner should be successful in three dimensions: expertise: they should demonstrate knowledge and expertise. Contribution: sharing thought leadership like speaking at conferences and publishing papers and articles. An impact: enhancing the industry locally, regionally or globally.”

Urpi Torrado


 “As the world is in crisis, we must work together to transform the field of marketing research and marketing to drive a positive impact on people, the planet in addition to profit. The Insight250 Winner must be able to inspire people with their knowledge and expertise to build a brighter future. We will define the future by ourselves, not being defined by the crisis.”

Orm (Dangjaithawin) Anantachai


“I will be looking to those that have earned the respect of their peers, which could involve a variety of dimensions. For instance, innovation as shown by those creating a new field, commitment to quality considering those recognised as consistently delivering excellent research, and leadership thinking about many leading figures whose main task has been to motivate their teams towards excellence. 

“Specifically, I would like to shed some light on the industry stars in our corner of the world. As in many emerging markets, working in Latin America involves an extra layer of challenges associated with harder financial restrictions, intense ups and downs of the economies, or polarised and unequal societies. And still, there are plenty of success stories to share!”

Diego Casaravilla


“As a Judge on this truly independent and accomplished jury, I look for qualities that connect to the honourees’ ability to see and take core truths to their ultimate end. Candidates that demonstrate vast knowledge and prescience, a strong understanding of ethics and achievement and the ability to lift the industry and world out of some very dark corners through their words, ideas and actions. These are some key dimensions I look for in an Insight250 Winner. 

“Other important dimensions such as cross-functionality (how interdisciplinary and intercultural your vision and work has been), impact, publications, learning agility, influence, gratitude, and deep empathy work together to make sure we reward some of the most overlooked honourees deserving of the industry’s global award today.”

Arundati Dandapani


“There are three dimensions that I am looking for: first, being disruptive, there is no great innovation from a predicted and well-calculated approach. Second, the work must be data-driven. As a researcher, I always believe numbers never lie. Third, working in a business sector, I would like to see great work which creates huge business value or impact.”

Tony Li

“I am looking forward to learning about members of the insights community, who have developed or done things that have never been done before. Here, I am not only thinking about new methods or technologies but also about examples, where insights created real impact or the insights profession as a whole has gained relevance.”

Roland Abold


“Empowering, enabling or delivering genuine impact for commercial, government or third sector clients right through our research value chain has to be the primary determiner of successful research and insight work. Research has no value until it's used; we are enablers of better decision-making, but only built on quality data, innovative insight solutions and commercially focused diagnosis and definition of implications told through stories (with data), not through 'charts', 'slides' or 'decks'. People remember engaging stories; how many charts or slides or decks do you remember?”

Nick Baker

Thank you all for sharing your views. These are fantastic insights and perspectives on what is driving the selection process for just a few judges for the 2022 Insight250. If you have a nominee (including yourself) who is an exceptional leader or innovator in market research, consumer insights or data-driven marketing, we invite you to submit your nomination at by the end of this month (February 2022).

Crispin Beale
Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab, CEO at Insight250, Group President at Behaviorally