New Member Interview: Carole Charland, Pointe Claire Quebec
Mike Courtney, Mike@aperioinsights.com
Who were you and what did you do before you got into marketing research?
I worked in public health as an anthropologist for eight years, focusing on infectious disease prevention programs, primarily HIV but also tuberculosis. I was also involved in academic research with a group affiliated with the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine.
What drew you to qualitative research? Did you stumble into the field or was it your childhood dream to moderate?
I was curious of people and their homes. I remember being very intrigued as a kid when I realized how different each neighbor’s apartment was. I was literally ‘nosy’ and wondered why each one had a specific odor. At some point, I knocked at someone’s door and very politely asked if I could have a look inside. My neighbor laughed but refused. That was my first recruitment challenge. I could have become an interior designer or fragrance specialist.
I then wanted to understand people to try to help. I studied psychology and philosophy but wanted a more encompassing, broader reaching view which I found in anthropology and history. My training focused on anthropology and the history of health. If I had better grades in sciences, I might have done something related to health science or biology.
While working in public health we used a market research agency for one of our projects. My first experience with a focus group was as a client behind the glass. I kept that in mind as a potential future avenue with the idea of offering catering services.
Please tell us about your company. What brought you to this company and your role within the organization? Is there a story behind your company name?
I founded Sapiens Strategies. My collaborator Karen Hofman and I are both anthropologists and I wanted to exploit the idea of human ingenuity—the respondents,’ our clients’ and our own intelligence and complex thinking in finding adaptive solutions. We promote a renewed approach to answering business questions based on human sciences and are getting a positive response from clients.
Hypotheses, concepts, interpretations and analysis form the strategic part of research (quant and qual) and we are discovering a variety of ways to talk about these aspects in ways that are relevant for our clients. We aim at keeping abreast of the latest thinking in market research and the human sciences and to share it.
We talk about semiology, credibility as an experience, reputation, leadership and engagement. Because we work with physicians there are many insights that can be meaningfully situated relative to epistemology and knowledge acquisition.
Do you remember your first few moderating sessions? If we were able to watch a video of that first session what would we see?
Me breaking out in a cold sweat! It was an important and stressful interview, 13 years ago when I first joined Ipsos. It was in a viewing facility. There were about 10 people from Ipsos and the client side. It was with an infectious disease specialist about HIV/AIDS treatment which was a bit challenging because of the varied ways physicians might name the drugs and classes of drugs. I definitely had to do some studying ahead of time.
During the interview, one physician confused some of the drug classes. Even if I felt sort of confident about this part of the information, I couldn’t be entirely sure I wasn’t wrong. I tried to prompt again on the class hoping the physician would rectify the information but I almost insulted him. He said: “I don’t know how much you know about HIV medication but this product is a NNRTI”. With some apprehension, I went to the viewing room to get feedback. Everyone was smiling: “You were right and the physician was wrong.” It was concerning, but personally I breathed a sigh of relief. Phew…
What motivated you to join the QRCA and what do you hope to gain from your membership?
I wanted to meet other researchers to continue learning and thinking about research. In the current era, I think we are moving away from being overly focused on methods and techniques towards finding better solutions and a renewed curiosity. It is stimulating and I want to be part of it.
Many industries, including qualitative research, have experienced significant changes over these last few years. What do you imagine qualitative research and/or QRCA will look like in the year 2020? Any predictions?
I like that we are in a dynamic era for research. Not all attempts to try new approaches are great, but discussing them contributes to keeping us alert.
As I mentioned earlier, we are finding an interest in the subject of knowledge: the various types, how it is acquired, communicated or transmitted. It is like a pragmatic epistemology and I find this exciting. There might be a trend to go deeper in our understanding of complex information and levels of meanings. In the past, it was very difficult to use words such as “semiology” without losing colleagues’ and clients’ attention. It is now better received and understood.
I am seeing greater openness and reliance on concepts and interpretation than before. It is a good time to be a cultural anthropologist in market research. In an era where we can easily access so much information, it is refreshing to see the refining of our curiosity in how we search and make use of information.
Do you find yourself moderating the family dinner discussion?
In my natural environment, I am a rather incessant talker. I even talk in my sleep.
In a family reunion, I act the same as the rest of my family: being loud, argumentative, talking all over each other but apparently able to follow a few conversations simultaneously. I am not sure how and if this might have contribute to the development of my listening and research skills. But the desire to learn can make me refrain from talking.
What books are you reading right now (real printed paper book or e-books?)
“Curious” by Ian Leslie and “Curiosity” by Alberto Manguel (as an e-book). I guess at this point it is not a surprise!
The Final Question: A client tells you they'll triple your project fee if you can beat them fair and square in a game. You get to choose the game. What game do you play and how likely are you to win?
I am not that great at games. I think with some minimal training I can win at those games where you guess different smells or perfumes. For better or worse, I still have an acute sense of smell.
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