Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Kendall Rynders. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.
Introducing Kendall Rynders of Ask Afrika
As Head of Consulting at Ask Afrika, Kendall Rynders believes success is founded on values. As someone who genuinely wants to make a difference, she believes she can impact the world far beyond just herself. Rynders is currently working on a hope project that she believes will help South Africa and other countries drive hope which is linked to higher income levels, better economies, lower poverty.
Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?
As someone with a background in neuropsychology, neurophysiology, and behavioral science, my interests and passions lie in a desire to understand how people change. In fact, my curiosity in these fields has led me to explore how they intersect with human-to-human businesses and the role they play in shaping our daily lives.
One area of particular interest to me is the fast-paced nature of technology and where it’s going. With advancements in technology happening at an ever-increasing rate, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand how our brains and behavior will interact with this new landscape. That’s where my background in neuropsychology and behavioral science comes in. By understanding the underlying neurological and physiological mechanisms that drive behavior, I believe we can develop more effective strategies for leveraging technology to create positive outcomes for businesses and individuals alike.
But it’s not just technology that fascinates me
I’m also passionate about the human side of business, and how we can use insights from neuropsychology and behavioral science to create more productive and fulfilling work environments. Whether it’s in the context of customer relationships or team dynamics, I believe that a deep understanding of how our brains and behavior work can help businesses create more positive and engaging workplaces.
This passion for human-to-human business extends beyond the workplace and into the broader community as well. I’m interested in how businesses can use their resources and expertise to make a positive impact on the world and contribute to a greater good.
Overall, my passions and interests are driven by my curiosity and desire to better understand the complex and fascinating ways in which our brains and behavior interact with the world around us. Whether it’s through the lens of neuropsychology, neurophysiology, behavioral science, or the fast-paced world of technology, I’m excited to continue exploring these topics in my career and contributing to a better understanding of how we can create positive outcomes for individuals and businesses alike.
Who is your career role model or source of inspiration?
I am fortunate enough to work under the leadership and mentorship of Andrea Rademeyer and Sarina De Beer. Their passion for driving a greater good and their commitment to making a positive impact on the world inspires me to be a better person, researcher and leader. They lead by example, demonstrating the importance of putting purpose at the core of everything we do.
Ask Afrika, inspires me every day. I’m grateful to work for a company that gives me the freedom to be myself and explore ideas that lead to innovation that has purpose at its core. This kind of environment encourages me to think outside the box and push myself to new heights.
Further sources of inspiration come from Cy Wakeman and Brené Brown. Cy Wakeman’s work on how to eliminate drama from the workplace has inspired me to always strive for a positive and drama-free work environment, where employees can focus on what truly matters. Brené Brown’s work has helped me understand the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in research and leadership, and has inspired me to conduct research and lead with empathy and a genuine desire to connect with those around me.
Overall, my career role models and sources of inspiration are people who are passionate about their work and committed to making a difference in the world. Whether it’s through thought leadership, mentorship, or the workplace environment, they inspire me to be a better person and a better leader, and to always strive for excellence in everything I do.
What advice do you have for folks hoping to start a career in insights?
To know and experience the power and beauty of a good debate. This is one of the most important pieces of advice that I can give to anyone (not only those hoping to start a career in insights). Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge things.
A confession before I get into the details, I sometimes purposefully play devils advocate to drive a discussion and a deeper consideration and understanding. You see insights professionals are responsible for providing businesses with the information they need to make informed decisions. This means that we need to be able to question assumptions and challenge the status quo in order to arrive at the most accurate and meaningful insights. In other words, we need to be able to respectfully challenge things in order to get to the truth.
Respectfully challenging the norms and asking questions
Respectfully challenging things means to you are willing to ask questions and to probe deeper into the data in order to understand the underlying patterns and trends. It means being willing to consider multiple perspectives and to question your own assumptions. And it means being willing to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means going against the prevailing wisdom.
Of course, there is a fine line between respectfully challenging things and being confrontational or disrespectful. It’s important to approach any challenges with humility and an openness to learning. It’s also important to be respectful of others’ opinions and to seek to understand their context and purpose.
Ideally as a researcher or consultant you should use data to back up your assertions. When you can point to the data and demonstrate that your insights are based on sound analysis, it’s much easier to make a case for your perspective.
Sometimes you might also need to follow your intuition or your gut. You might have a hunch that something is amiss or that there is an opportunity to be seized, it’s important to be willing to take a chance and see where it leads. When you do this just make sure you have a thoughtful and purposeful plan to take advantage of the opportunity.
How do you advocate for others on your team or your customers?
I have a passion for people and my team and clients have a very special place in my heart. I try my best to gain a deep understanding of their needs and goals and am committed to helping them succeed. I believe that when one person on the team falls, fails or struggles, we all fall, fail and struggle. This means that we need to work together to support and uplift one another.
Creating a culture of collaboration
One of the best ways to do this is to create a culture of collaboration and shared goals, where everyone is moving in the same direction, at the same pace, and helping one another. This philosophy was reinforced for me by a previous Managing Director who I deeply admire. He hosted a townhall where he asked us all to close our eyes and point North.
When we opened our eyes, we were all pointing in the same direction. He then asked us to run (figuratively) in that direction. When I visualized this, I saw how powerful the collective is, but I also saw how important it is for everyone to be moving in the same direction and at the same pace, helping one another along the way.
“You should never compromise your values or ethics, and always put the best interests of your team or your customers first.”
When working with my clients, I apply the same philosophy. I work with them to build a roadmap that helps them run towards their business goals, and I provide insights that boost their speed. I am always there to provide support in the form of a safety net so my teams can take risks and grow in a safe space. But I also hold them accountable so they can learn from failed risks and continuously improve.
In advocating for others, it’s important to always be a strong and positive advocate. This means that you should never compromise your values or ethics, and always put the best interests of your team or your customers first. It also means being a good listener, taking the time to understand the needs and goals of each individual, and providing them with the support and guidance they need to succeed.
Where do you see the future of insights heading in the next 10 years?
It would be easy to focus the answer to this question on technology including AI and big data but to be honest I hope this isn’t the future of insights. Technology is here to be used as a tool to take us further but only humans can understand humans. The understanding a person has when they fully entrench themselves in the world of another individual far surpasses what technology can achieve (currently at least).
In the next 10 years, I believe that the most successful insights professionals will be those who are able to balance the power of technology with a deep understanding of human behavior, culture, and context. This means going beyond the surface-level insights that are often provided by data analytics tools, and digging deeper into the nuances and complexities of human behavior.
Understanding humans requires focus on a range of factors, including cultural context, socio-economic status, psychological drivers, and more. We need to consider how these different factors interact with one another to shape the way people think, feel, and act. This requires a holistic approach to research and consulting. Technology can provide a leg up but humans will still be the difference.