30under30 Honouree: Enke Huang

Great to hear from 2023 Global 30 under 30 honouree, Enke Huang, who has an impressive portfolio of work using research to not just understand problems but to drive solutions. She has consistently developed impactful projects, products and a social enterprise through a rigorous, entrepreneurial and creative approach to market research.

I studied business for my bachelor’s, then did my first master’s in arts and cultural management, and the second master’s in visual anthropology. Empirical studies and qualitative research have been the core of my ways of working and understanding, whether that was diving into business cases to decipher the golden rule for growth or using ethnographic thick data to understand complex cultures. Before my first full-time role in the industry, I had already used my research skills to develop various forms of engagement from creative programmes and exhibitions at public museums, to academic conference papers and ethnographic films.

My first client case was to lead a piece of audience research at the British Museum and produce insights for its digital product launch and commercial strategies. I had the opportunity to design and conduct both primary and secondary market research, do ethnography with visitors, work with data scientists, and present go-to-market strategies to all-level stakeholders. The result not only revitalised a stagnant product but also generated millions of pounds of income for the organisation within the first year. This experience illuminated the transformational power of insightful research and marked the beginning of my dedicated pursuit of applied research as a career focus.

It will have to be that I turned a piece of ethnographic insight into a viable business plan, and subsequently grew it into a spin-out social enterprise over 5 years for the Foundling Museum from 2018 to 2023. It is essentially a creative place-making project to help travellers have a better experience in Bloomsbury in London. During that time, I created a brand (and a brand mascot that is dearly loved by audiences!); designed cultural maps; launched a digital content platform from scratch; published over 55 long-form research editorials reaching over a million audiences; made a podcast with peers that got downloaded 40,000 times in 3 months; and built a high-loyalty and high-engagement audience on-line community. It was a full five years throughout which I not only used research to ‘understand’ something but to create solutions, develop strategies, and deliver results constantly. It was a challenging yet highly rewarding journey that not only tested the depth and longevity of my research and strategy but also honed both the hard and soft skills required for sustainable success in product development.

Professionally, speed and efficiency are very important. This is a state not easy to achieve and requires consistent and persistent training on the self and the mind. Never compromise on quality and standard!

Research is not only about curiosity but also innovation. You need to constantly challenge assumptions, experiment, and be at the forefront of the dynamic changes in our world. Don’t shy away from choosing less-explored topics at university, posing out-of-box questions, or taking the lead in shaping how people around you see the world. Fearlessly navigating uncharted territories is where the most impactful discoveries and transformations happen.

The key to sustaining relevance and impact as a sector is always the ability to evolve. Our sector is full of thoughtful, reflexive, and passionate people, and we are well-positioned in a world of change to stimulate social discussions about new technologies, new perspectives, and new methodologies.

Very rarely you can say someone changes your life in a truly descriptive way. I would not be who I am today without the unwavering support of Nigel Cudlipp and Judy Bollinger, the former director and trustee at the Foundling Museum. They gave me the opportunity to start my career and taught me deeply about trust, integrity, persistence, and humility.