Posted By Neri de Kramer,
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Building Empathy: Tips from Anthropology Class
One thing I teach my students is how to think less in terms of “us” versus “them” and more in terms of our common, shared humanity. I make it very clear that students should not expect sensationalist accounts of “weird” or “exotic” peoples, but when they do learn about behaviors or belief systems that don’t make intuitive sense, thinking about all humans as one of “us” helps them look for the underlying logics to these diverse ways of being human.
This open mindset helps students better understand others’ points of view. These others are not limited to the cultural groups we read about but also include the others in the classroom. Classroom discussions are guided by the motto “understand, before wanting to be understood.” This forces students to listen to each other with suspended judgment. It leads to more empathic insights into people and their various views. It makes them consider how their opinions might be received by classmates. It improves student collaborations.
Credit: Evan Krape
Copyright: © 2016 University of Delaware
I assure students that these skills are vital in the real world. They are also obviously vital to applied qualitative research, where in fact we get paid to suspend our judgment in order to put ourselves in the shoes of our respondents and uncover their point of view in empathic ways. In addition to our respondents, we can also fruitfully apply this mindset to our interactions with clients, recruiters, facilities, and other teams.
Anthropologist Grant McCracken made a similar argument when he warned against business anthropologists’ habit of criticizing their clients, even “dissing them behind their backs.” He suggested practitioners return to a more fundamental 20th century culturally relativist position. This means we should practice what we preach by placing ourselves in the shoes of not only those we are paid to understand but also of those we work with.
The benefits are numerous. Understanding others helps us find the common goal all are willing to work toward together. An empathic grasp of what is really going on below the surface of that behavior or request improves our negotiation position. It enables us to solve problems instead of focus on its extraneous expressions. It makes for better proposals. It is helpful in figuring out the power dynamics in a given group. Also, understanding why people respond the way they do might help prevent frustration, which is exhausting.
Below, I share three teaching activities I use to instill a more relativist mindset in my students. This may prove useful to our own work with respondents, as well as to the problems we encounter in our daily work lives. They are designed to foster reflexivity, or an awareness of how one’s own background, environment, and mental processes shape one’s views of the world and of others. The goal is to come to see our own norms, values, and way of being in this world as only one out of many other logical possibilities. This is the critical first step to becoming more receptive to points of view that are not our own.
Examine the roots of your deeply held values
Think polygamy is deeply wrong? Well, why? How did you develop that value? How does that value fit into your life and can you begin to imagine how it might be different for others? These are questions my students grapple with when we play the Norms Game.
We first make a list of categories that constitute a person's social identity (gender, nationality, etc.) which students fill out for themselves. Students then receive a sheet with 7 columns. On the left is a list of cultural practices on which opinions tend to diverge. Students are asked to indicate where they stand on these things by placing an X in one of five ranking columns. In the final column they indicate which aspect of their identity, or which culture, informs that opinion.
Table 1: Courtesy of Dr. Adkins-Jackson
The resulting discussion helps students see their viewpoints and those of others less as absolute dividing lines and more as products of situated lives. Students learn that as people’s circumstances change, their identity shifts, which may result in new worldviews. These are important insights for anybody working with diverse groups of people. They show our own ideas as only relative to those of others and help us see where they are coming from. The game has also generated important insights for the clients and research teams for whom I adapted it.
Explore your subconsciously held biases
The human mind holds associations that people are often not even aware of. Psychologists Greenwald, Banaji, and Nosek study this phenomenon and developed a set of 14 Implicit Association Tests. IATs measure the strength of subconscious associations between concepts and evaluations (i.e. female with career, for the gender-career IAT, or Black people with pleasing, for the race IAT). Anybody with an internet connection and a compatible device can take an IAT. It takes approximately 10 minutes. My students are required to take at least one. They also consider how their implicit biases might affect their social interactions.
The associations we make affect how much empathy we are able to develop for a member of a group cognitively considered “other.” For us, this exercise can make us more thoughtful about our interview questions, our conduct during focus groups, who we are most comfortable working with. See also Banaji and Greenwald’s book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People for the psychological science behind the biases we carry around with us.
Expand your mind
In order to move beyond stereotypes, we need to familiarize ourselves with others and broaden and complicate any implicitly held associations. One way to do this is by purposefully exposing ourselves to unfamiliar perspectives, experiences, and stories. So, for their assignments, I force students to engage with media and social media that doesn’t match their personal interests.
This can be eye-opening. While we researchers already spend a lot of time figuring out others, the more cultural information lives in our brain, the more it will benefit us in interactions with respondents, clients, and colleagues. We need to periodically break out of our own personal media silos and listen to the voices of those we don’t already know and agree with. It’s a behavioral shift that is easy to implement with the proliferation of podcasts, blogs, electronic newsletters, and so on. I consider it a form of anthropological reconnaissance I carry out during my commute or while browsing my phone at the doctor’s office.
Our differences are undeniable and fascinating. But a rigid “us” vs “them” stands in the way of generating empathic insights and prohibits fruitful collaboration. Reflexivity is key to building the empathy we need to succeed in all aspects of our work as qualitative research consultants.
About the Author:
Neri de Kramer, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist specializing in consumer behavior. She has done research in both Europe and the United States, for academic as well as corporate purposes. She is a freelance consultant and professor at the University of Delaware.
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Posted By Bruce Peoples,
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Moderating vs. Facilitating: What’s the Difference? Can You Do Both?
A few events in my career journey triggered the exploration of facilitating as a business opportunity and value-add for my clients. First was a breakout session at a QRCA conference where “facilitating” — vs. “moderating” — was brought to my attention. The second was when a client called me on a Sunday to replace his facilitator on Monday, to facilitate a session with R&D, sales, and marketing. With so little time to prepare, I trusted my instincts and experience as a moderator and let it fly… and suddenly I was a facilitator! It was a productive session — the client called me back for another session, and later to do consumer focus groups — and my curiosity was piqued to learn more.
Core Elements: The Same
I attended a three-day training session in facilitation (much like those offered at RIVA or Burke) and was pleasantly surprised to confirm that these two disciplines have much in common. The core elements of moderating and facilitating are the same: there is a gathering of people with something in common; there is a purpose behind the meeting; and there are desired outcomes. You guide the discussion in a thoughtful manner by providing structure and process.
Perhaps the biggest commonality is putting together an agenda — what we call a discussion guide — based on the client’s objectives and desired deliverables. Like a focus group discussion guide, much attention must be paid to the flow of the meeting and to the activities that will generate robust discussions.
Many of the exercises you utilize for qualitative can also be used for facilitating meetings. These might include:
- Developing lists and gathering, sorting, and ranking ideas
- Breaking out in small groups
- Mind mapping
- Perceptual mapping
Facilitated meetings are usually longer – a half day – and therefore benefit from energizing exercises interspersed throughout the session.
The Differences: Participants, Output, and Achieving Consensus
One key difference between moderating and facilitating is the participants. Focus group participants have no skin in the outcome; you will never see them again. Facilitated participants have to work with each other. A facilitated meeting may have colleagues from different functions (R&D, marketing, sales) and at different levels of authority (managers to vice presidents). When the meeting is over, they have to work together to achieve common goals. Their strategies and tactics – their jobs – might be affected by the outcome. I ask to conduct a few brief interviews of participants from different areas prior to the meeting to get a feel for the situation, personalities, motives, and issues that might arise.
Another difference is the output: in a focus group, the outputs are insights and determining their implications and developing recommendations. In a facilitated work group or work team meeting, the output is often an action plan that determines what, who, how much, and when. The action plan should be understood and agreed upon by all participants. In other words: achieve consensus, which means participants can live with the decisions that created the action plan and support them.
Two issues you’ll address more often when facilitating a work team than moderating consumers are resolving conflicts and achieving consensus. Marketing wants that new ice cream now; manufacturing can’t make it until next year. Your approach is somewhat intuitive and not much different than if moderating – but requires more attention and care. Things you’ll need to spend more time on include clarifying the issue, understanding its root causes, ensuring everyone understands the issue, brainstorming pros and cons, and ultimately utilizing techniques to rank or prioritize.
Projects and Meetings Where Facilitators Add Value
Facilitators can add value to a lot of different projects and meetings, but common types are:
- Innovation: Brainstorming to create new product ideas.
- Process improvement: This might include flowcharting a process, identifying roadblocks, and developing solutions to clear those roadblocks.
- Strategic planning: This might include a market situation assessment, SWOT analysis, and developing the outlines of a new strategic plan.
- Data Analysis: Sharing, analyzing, and assessing a lot of data from a variety of sources.
- Planning and executing a new product launch: The output is often an action plan.
Implications for You
If you are a good moderator, should you seek out facilitation opportunities? Yes! You already have many of the skills, resources, and experiences to successfully facilitate work group meetings. To pump up your confidence before jumping in, seek and find some formal facilitation training. On your first projects, get a partner to help plan and execute.
Put together a one- or two-page brochure (PDF is fine) highlighting your capabilities – and this can include moderating. Then network your way to generate awareness. Many of you work with research managers at large companies. Let them know and ask them to share your capabilities with their colleagues in other functions, such as marketing, sales, R&D, or HR.
About the Author:
Prior to becoming a qualitative consultant, Bruce Peoples worked in brand management, channel, and customer marketing for several well-known brands in different industries including Hanes and Jack Daniel’s. Bruce has been a QRCA member for about a decade now and utilizes a variety of methods to help his clients solve their marketing problems, whether they be consumer or business-to-business related. Bruce was trained in moderating at RIVA and in facilitation at Leadership Strategies.
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Posted By Katye Hamilton,
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Qualitative Research 101 – A Guide to the Basics of Qual
Qualitative Research 101 – A Guide to the Basics of Qual
Are you new to qualitative research or want a refresher on the different styles of group discussions that typically encompass qual research? While the topics you explore in each session will vary widely, there’s a basic group structure to take into consideration before you start building your discussion guide. First, decide if your research objectives need face-to-face (F2F) solutions or if an online approach will work.
For best group dynamics, the ideal total participants is 4-6 people. Any larger and you won’t be able to hear from each participant as often or dive deep into the conversation with everyone involved. The discussion is led by a moderator and you may see an assistant or dual moderator in the room. The moderator(s) lead the group from topic to topic and encourage all to contribute.
Standard focus group rooms have a one-way mirror for clients to observe the session in real time. Photo courtesy of Issues & Answers and their Virginia Beach Facility.
Dyads and Triads
These are groups with only two or three participants, respectively, plus the moderator. Maybe it’s a physician, patient, and caregiver doing an appointment mock-up. Or you want to have a focused discussion with just a few consumers; three pet parents, each with a pet with a specific dietary need. The conversation is likely going to be less exploratory and more focused so you can dive into details quicker. Dyads and Triads are great when there’s a monitoring session, like website navigation or roleplaying situations.
In-Depth Interview (IDI)
A true one-on-one interview involves a moderator + respondent. The power in an IDI usually stems from the research topic at hand. Is it a sensitive subject like health care, death, financial, etc.? Or maybe it’s understanding a person’s journey – purchasing process, behavior understanding, etc. Isolating the respondent helps promote a feeling of safety in the conversation as well as creates an opportunity to explore subjects more deeply.
All three of these session types can be executed in a research facility, off-site with cameras for recording, or online with a focus group vendor. Most clients want to see and hear the conversations in real time, so they watch from what we call the “back room” which may be a physical room at a research facility or off-site, or in a virtual back room with an online provider.
There are some innovative focus group spaces that shake up the traditional, round table/conference room set-up with more relaxed or on-topic scenes. Check out Good Run Research & Recreation; they have a formal living room and bar room models (still with the one-way mirror, complete back room experience for clients) to amplify the respondent and moderator discussions.
These have a lot of names (workshop, co-creation, etc.), but the premise is pretty similar across the board. These are sessions where you bring multiple groups of people into a room together. When you have a client that wants to be highly engaged with the process, and not just an observer, you may want to tap into these models. These could be:
- An internal workshop with employees from multiple departments (stakeholders) and you as the moderator facilitate the group activities and conversation.
- A session where you mingle clients with the respondents for brainstorming, ideation, new product development, etc. Clients would likely be spread out among the respondent tables so they can engage directly as well as learn firsthand their experiences and ideas.
Marketing research ethnographies are never “hands-off.” In the education space, a true ethnography would have little to no engagement with the person or people you are observing; you’re meant to do just that – observe. In marketing research, we believe in the power of observation plus asking questions.
Ethnographies in MR can come in the form of in-home interviews, shop-alongs where you meet a respondent at a specified location and track their buying process, or even on-location research. The purpose is to get the respondent in a natural environment, rather than a traditional focus group setting. This is helpful when you need fewer recall answers and more in-the-moment engagement.
Other F2F Types
The list above is not meant to be exhaustive; in-person intercepts and telephone interviews can be important for your qualitative research, depending on the objectives. Is there another form of F2F that I missed? Tell me about your methodology in the comments!
Online qual solutions have expanded tremendously in terms of vendors, programs, platforms, and the types of research executions available — from desktop applications to mobile phone apps. It’s important to consider online styles when your client may have a limited budget or there’s a tight timeline that limits your travel opportunities.
Methods may vary, from text-based surveys with auto Q&A to mobile apps that track respondents’ phone patterns (the apps they open, websites they checked, etc.). Sometimes it’s important to engage and observe in a respondent’s natural habitat – their mobile device. Maybe you need to geo-ping respondents for a study when they’re near a certain location and you need photo collectors?
Communities vs. Online Bulletin Boards (OLBB)
For some, online communities are virtual hubs for long-term or continual engagement. The online community acts as a “panel” of ready respondents for your ongoing topic.
Shorter engagements are sometimes called communities or online bulletin boards. These could be as short as 2-3 days with a few dozen respondents. There are multiple engagement activities from photo collages, Q&A, group discussions, etc. OLBBs may be less flashy and more of a straight discussion thread. There could be engagement through liking/commenting on others’ posts, but the conversation itself is pretty straightforward.
Semantics aside, this type of online qual is still moderated! Through probing questions, video chats, or private messages, the moderator writes the discussion guide and engages with the respondents in the platform to promote responsiveness, details, and any follow-up questions that may arise. These tend to be a solution for more respondent engagement than in a one-time fixed setting and give respondents flexibility with their dedication since many are mobile enabled.
Since the Fall of 2017, InsightsNow’s Clean Label Enthusiasts™ is an online community which offers ongoing insights into a range of topics, providing a highly flexible research solution for quick answers.
Just like the F2F group types, you can translate that experience into a digital medium. Multiple vendors allow moderators to share their screens, their stimuli, allow for group chat, individual webcams and a client view. Doing online groups in this way helps alleviate any travel pains but does usually require more technology-adept consumers – something to consider if that may change your recruit type.
I’m specifically leaving out the topic of surveys for this blog post! While some surveys can be qualitative in nature, most of the time they still fall into the realm of quant. Qual derives part of its value from the moderated content — something we haven’t been able to solve fully in the survey space.
I hope you either learned something new with this post or gained fresh inspiration for a project you’re working on. Tell us about your qual methods in the comments!
About the Author:
Kayte Hamilton is a hybrid marketing researcher with a passion for solving complex client problems. She’s got a knack for sorting out the details while maintaining project integrity. In her free time (ha!) you will find her spending time with her dog Muffin, traveling the states, or volunteering.
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Posted By Kay Corry Aubrey,
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2019
How Can Voice AI Help Qualitative Researchers?
Within three years, 50% of Web searches will be done via voice. Today almost one in four US households has access to a smart speaker such as Google Home or Alexa. Consumers are adopting voice technology faster than any other technology, including smart phones. Very soon voice artificial intelligence (AI) will become embedded in our everyday lives to the point where we may not even notice it anymore. How can qualitative researchers leverage this powerful trend?
For inspiration I spoke with four experts who are doing cool things with voice technology. They described unique ways to apply voice Artificial Intelligence (AI) that offer a preview on how this technology might transform our work as researchers. For example, consumers are shifting toward using their voice vs. their fingers to interact with technology and the Internet.
The Rise of the Talking Survey
Greg Hedges has had great success with voice-based surveys through virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google. According to him, “It’s like launching a focus group of one. People are interacting where they are most comfortable in their own home, using their own words. We’ve found that people are more spontaneous and natural when they talk vs. when they type.” Greg’s company also helps organizations integrate voice branding into their digital marketing ecosystem. Part of their expertise is redesigning a client’s SEO strategy to be phrase and question-based (vs. keyword based) to accommodate voice searches.
Ask Your Digital Twin Narrate Your Next Report
Domhnaill Hernon collaborates with artists to explore the deep connections between technology and human potential. He worked with Reeps One, a beatboxer, who fed hours of his audio recordings into Nokia’s AI machine. To their astonishment, the system returned new melodies he didn’t put in but sounded just like him. Rather than feeling threatened, the artist embraced the capability and now incorporates AI-generated tunes into his work. Soon this technology will be widely available, and you’ll be able to produce reports in your own voice that clients can listen to just like a podcast.
It’s hard to imagine how voice technology – and AI in general – will change our world. Technology is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, AI will be used to cure disease, make societies more efficient, and redistribute wealth so humans everywhere prosper. On the other, it might lead to a hardening of the social classes and a surveillance state. In a recent episode of 60 Minutes, AI expert Kai Fu Lee said that 40% of jobs will be eliminated within 15 years due to artificial intelligence. To empower ourselves we need to understand what AI is, how it works, its capabilities and limitations.
How Voice AI Works
As with any artificial intelligence, voice technology relies on two things: having access to a huge pool of data, and algorithms that look for patterns within the data. For voice, the algorithm is called Natural Language Processing (NLP). The result can only be as good as the data that are fed into the machine. Today in North America, Voice Assistants (VA) are 95% accurate if the person speaking is a white native-born man, 80% accurate if it’s a woman, and as low as 50% accurate if the person has an accent. This is because of the socially limited group of people who contribute their data by using voice assistants - VA users tend to be early adopters, white, and highly educated.
Jen Heape notes, “Natural Language Processing (NLP) cannot deal reliably with anyone who is not a white male, and this is deeply problematic, which is why Google and Amazon are giving away so much free so they can collect more complete samples.”
The algorithms that make up NLP leverage fixed rules of language around syntax, grammar, semantics. The algorithm can be taught, “if they say this, say that” and the machine learns the pattern. This capability allows the virtual assistant to process simple prescriptive (but useful) commands such as “turn on the lights,” “play NPR,” or “order more lettuce,” because the technology has learned the vocabulary and structure of English sentences.
Can a Machine Be Conversational?
However, voice technology is still very much in its infancy. The machine has no concept of culture or social inferences. As Heape noted, “If I were to say ‘The kids just got out of school’ and the listener is in the same time zone, they’d know it’s 3 or 3:30. However, the voice technology would not be able to infer this because it lacks the data.”
Freddie Feldman leads a voice design team which creates chatbots and conversational interfaces for medical environments. According to Feldman, chat bots and voice technology in general are helpful in medical environments to get quick answers to predictable questions. “But for anything more crucial, dynamic or that requires understanding the other person’s psychology you’ll need to call someone in the end.” In theory, it’s possible that voice technology will have deeper human characteristics one day. “The technology is there. It’s just a question of someone piecing it together.”
It’s hard to imagine any machine being able to understand and integrate all the rich signals we send and receive in a conversation: the look on a person’s face, the tone of their voice, their diction, their physical posture, our perception of anger and pleasure, or what they are thinking. These elements are as essential to meaning and human connection as the words themselves. As Heape said, “VAs will never replace the human. There will always be a human pulling the lever. We decide what the machine needs to learn. VAs will remove the arduous elements. But we need a human to interpret the results and analyze it. We’re still so much at the beginning of it — we have not fed the machine.”
My feeling is there will be abundant opportunities for qualitative researchers, but – first – we need to understand the beast and what it cannot do.
Learn More about Artificial Intelligence and Voice Technology
Thomas H Davenport and Rajeev Rananki, “Artificial Intelligence for the Real World; Don’t start with moonshots”, Harvard Business Review, January-February 2018. (free download).
Joanna Penn, “9 Ways That Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Disrupt Authors And The Publishing Industry”, Creative Penn Podcast #437, July 2019.
Oz Woloshyn and Karah Preiss, Sleepwalkers podcast on iHeartRadio.
Voice 2019 Summit, New Jersey Institute of Technology, July 22 – 25.
Thank you to the experts I spoke with while researching this post:
- Freddie Feldman, Voice Design Director at Wolters Kluwer Health
- Jen Heape, Co-founder of Vixen Labs
- Greg Hedges, VP of Emerging Experiences at RAIN agency
- Domhnaill Hernon, Head of Experiments in Art and Technology at Nokia Bell Labs.
About the Author
Kay Corry Aubrey is a User Experience consultant and trainer who shows her customers how to make their products more easily understandable to ordinary people through usability testing and in-home studies. For the past few years she’s focused on products and services for older people that improve their lives, helping them remain independent and in their home. Kay sees great potential in voice-enabled products geared towards older folks. Her clients include Pillo Health, Stanley Black and Decker Futures, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Kay is the Luminaries Editor for the QRCA VIEWS magazine and a RIVA-certified Master Moderator and Trainer.
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Posted By Isabel Aneyba,
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Updated: Monday, June 24, 2019
Let’s Work Together: The Consumer Co-Creation Camp
While focus groups have long been a part of the innovation process, many clients have voiced their frustration about the limitations of traditional focus groups. To respond to this and other client needs, we created a methodology called Consumer Co-creation Camp. It is designed to expedite the research process while making it fun and provide a more direct connection between the client and consumers.
We had a client that decided it was time for his company to start an innovative process. This is how he requested the research: “I do not want boring focus groups, I want a fun process like a reality show, where we are looking to discover new things. I do not want to listen to top-of-mind responses, I want a deeper understanding. We want to achieve a year’s worth of research in one comprehensive study: understand the target, create product/brand concepts and evaluate those concepts”
To address this client’s broad request, we facilitated three groups simultaneously in three days to create products and brands with consumers. This process involved multiple stakeholders: the client team, the advertising agency and the consumers. We called this engaging process: The Consumer Co-creation Camp.
At the end of the fieldwork, the client stated: “We clearly know what we need to know to make this product a success in the marketplace”. How did this project provide such clarity and confidence to the client team and agency? In my view, it was the co-creation of compelling consumer-ready ideas. Three successive stages lead them to:
We wanted the participants to get to know one another first, so we asked Millennial participants to introduce themselves using a collage they created prior to the Camp. This set the stage that this process was about the Millennials and about being together. They felt appreciated while they found new friends and were free to use their own colloquial language.
During this process, our clients moved from feeling “I want to hear this and that” to “These people are interesting”” to “This is going to be big”. There was a perception shift because it was the first-time clients had a chance to see how these Millennials saw themselves.
Millennials created new concepts after testing the product. Collages helped participants to articulate their feelings because many times participants do not know how to describe their feelings and emotions. Collages were a springboard to show their feelings and it was a great equalizer, giving them all the opportunity to adapt the product and the brand to themselves. Our clients witnessed how the brand concepts matched Millennials’ needs and personal styles.
This stage motivated the clients the most. The Millennials presented their ideas directly to them, in the same room. The client team and Millennial teams had a vigorous conversation. There was ‘one voice in the room’. Consumers and clients worked in tandem focused on the unifying goal, with no barriers, mirrors or attitudes. After the final presentation, all the clients knew what the final output of the research was!
At the end of the process, three key outcomes would significantly impact product management, the brand vision, and consumer engagement.
Product Management. The global R&D and Marketing team became aligned and felt empowered to make necessary product and packaging changes.
Brand Vision. The client and ad agency gained a deeper understanding of Millennials, their needs, and shared this with the entire corporation. This understanding inspired them to create a new brand vision.
Engagement. The marketing teams learned how Millennials made friends, and this insight helped them to better engage with this target – utilizing a relevant marketing platform.
Even after the camp, the participants’ ideas were referred to constantly by the clients and the agency. Their vivid experiences allowed for crisper memories. The co-creation experience anchored the clients’ understanding on this target audience through a human connection. It was clear how the Co-Creation Camp streamlined the research process, and in the end, saved the client money and time while enhancing their understanding.
Do you believe your corporate clients would value working together with the consumers in a fun, engaging process that yields high quality insights and speedier outcomes?
If so, how can you streamline your next research project to generate compelling consumer -ready ideas? Consumer Co-creation Camp is a great alternative. When empowered and enabled by the research process our experience has shown that Millennials and Clients are happy to embrace the challenge of creating new products and services.
Isabel Aneyba is president and chief insight generator of COMARKA, an Austin, Texas research firm. COMARKA empowers marketers to develop meaningful product and brand ideas with their customers through dialogue. www.comarka.com
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Posted By Anya Zadrozny,
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Bid Adieu to Bad Proposal Habits
Kayte Hamilton’s session Bid Adieu to Bad Proposal Habits focused on the current trends in proposal writing. As the co-chair of the QRCA Qually Award (which is an award given to the researcher that submits the best proposal to a set RFP) Kayte has had the unique experience of peaking behind the curtain and checking out what today’s proposals look like. With that knowledge along with interviews she conducted with fellow researchers, she took attendees through ways they could update and refresh their proposal writing, content and presentation to win more business.
Before we get to the meaty slide – here are two tips to remember before you start creating your proposal.
- View your proposal as the first expression of your company and brand identity. Make sure your brand personality and style shine through.
- When you receive an RFP, ask questions to the potential client about the target audience, budget, timing to return proposal, etc. Worst case – you don’t get a response, best case – you form a connection with the potential client and stand out from the crowd.
- Get feedback. Set reminders when you send in proposals to send a follow-up e-mail in a week to check the status of the proposal. Set another Email reminder to get feedback on why you did or did not get the job. Remember to use that proposal feedback to update your next proposal.
Here are five main trends from Kayte’s presentation that are helpful for you to know, and research further, as you go forth and submit proposals.
- Brevity –
- The trending length of your proposal should be around 8 pages or slides. That’s 1 cover + 7 supporting pages and it should be sent in PDF format.
- Be aware and find a balance between articulation and over-explanation.
- As moderators we are great at mirroring and use it to our advantage, however - mirroring is not helpful here – don’t waste space copying proposal wording or creating a long run up to your design – the clients know what they asked. Answer the question, don’t pose it again.
- The KISS method – aka keep it simple stupid – is the best way to present your ideas. Clients are often opening proposals on their phones or checking out proposals during small breaks during the day. Present them with something they are not going to dread or be intimidated to read.
- Design –
- Your proposal should be presented in a visually appealing way, it should add to the streamlined, clean feeling of the content.
- How do you get to design? After digesting the RFP, start with an outline of what you want to cover, then get into the heavy, meaty writing, then edit and trim that brain dump to get the executive summary level of the content, and finally add that text into your design.
- Don’t have a proposal template? Piggyback off of your report template, or search for free proposal designs in Google with a few keywords and go from there. Don’t discount hiring a professional here. This is often the first impression of your brand.
- Terrified of going from word to PPT? Try turning your word page from portrait to landscape and give that a try.
- Multi-Phase Research –
- This is more of a research trend than a proposal style trend – but Kayte found that multi-phase research is in! If this isn’t something you are already doing, she suggested a few ways to implement multi-phase research, without it being a giant undertaking.
- Integrate the pre-research you are already doing as the first phase into your proposal.
- Utilize the same respondents or a select few respondents from part one into part 2 to save on recruiting costs. For example, a mobile board to focus groups.
- Collaboration –
- We are facilitators, we juggle various stakeholders and agendas. Why not officially involve these stakeholders in your research phases? From a debrief session at the end, to a mini working session or co-creation session between phase 1 and phase 2 or a facilitated findings co-creation exercise before report writing - getting stakeholder involvement and awareness during the whole research process can be time-saving and beneficial.
- Adding research phases where your client can observe the participant in the real world was also suggested.
- Social –
- Using Social media is trending.
- Monitoring and scanning online reviews, videos, comments and forums to assess the topic.
- Using social media research as the first phase or pre-research information as pre-research and a dose of reality.
- Check what awareness there is from your client of their customers opinions of their brand via their social media presence.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Janet Standen,
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Updated: Friday, June 7, 2019
Qualitative Research with Employees – Why You Should Be Doing it
If you’re an experienced qualitative researcher and you haven’t done any employee experience research yet, perhaps it’s time you did!
First Things First
Why do I find employee qualitative so rewarding? We spend about a quarter of our life working, so if I can unearth an insight or two that can really make a difference in bettering the experience employees have in the workplace, I’m making a real contribution. By elevating the happiness of people on the job – where they spend so much time – my job seems more worthwhile and – in turn – makes me happier!
When and Why Is Qual Needed?
As is often the case, qualitative is a comfortable (and critical) companion to quantitative research. Most medium to large companies have a comprehensive annual Employee Engagement or Employee Satisfaction Survey – and each year they review the resulting data. Survey questions vary depending on the company, but they are usually around enjoyment, pride, understanding of and fit with the company vision, diversity, management performance, rewards, work/life balance, career development, and so on.
But what happens when the data show a shift or a trend, and no one is quite sure why it’s happening? Or, there’s an unexplained exodus of people; there may be gossip and rumors but no firsthand, deeper understanding about its cause. Exit interviews may or may not get to answers; by this point, the individuals leaving often don’t care enough to help make a difference for the people left behind.
And, what about all those subtle nuances of day-to-day life at work that don’t actually get captured in the big bucket questions? In order to have one standard survey that can be applied across all roles and levels in a company, the survey questions can become so bland – and we all know how dangerous it can be to include honest, open-ended answers if we think it might be possible to track it back to us. This is why qualitative is needed.
Different Roles for Qualitative
To ensure a quantitative survey will provide greatest value, its design is as critical as understanding its output. Qualitative should be used to inform the right questions included in the survey. Qualitative can be invaluable in ensuring the questions are being asked in the right way. Following the survey results, a third use of qualitative is to help explain the reasons for any negative shifts in data, ideally before employees start walking out the door.
Steering Qual. This should come first to ensure that the right questions are asked. Mini-groups are a good way to include a greater number of employees than IDIs, even if it requires some travel. Participants can be cross-functional and cross-level, at least to some degree. The conversations should be informal around key areas that matter to people. The discussion guide should be loosely designed with input from key stakeholders like Directors of Human Resources or Insights, but the moderator should be guided most by the natural direction that each group’s discussion takes. Specifically: what impacts their working environment and success every day; what really matters to people, how much it matters, why it matters. A comprehensive list of topics that impact employee happiness needs to emerge with a good understanding of the right way to think about the topic. Only then should an analysis of the output and learnings translate into a draft survey.
Tune-up Qual. This should come second. Once you have your draft survey, conduct a series of UX IDIs – where respondents think out loud as they take the survey. They need to take place with a range of people in different roles and levels. The survey can iterate throughout the interviews—but once you think it has evolved and been polished to a state of readiness for primetime, do a final 6-8 interviews to ensure it is as good as it needs to be, i.e. has comprehensive and relevant questions for all, that are asked in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
Directions Research. In this next stage, the learning becomes actionable given the benefit of a deeper understanding of the reasons behind shifts in data or behavior. IDIs or mini-groups can be considered, but ideally it’s a combination of the two. The topics up for discussion are driven by the data from the quant. Usually 5-6 topics can be covered in a 90-minute mini-group or a 30-minute IDI.
A great structure once the topics have been carefully introduced is:
- What’s working well?
- What’s not working so well?
- What fears do you have?
- What do you wish for?
There is a huge benefit in the research being recruited by an independent recruiter to allow for anonymity and to avoid manager bias of “favorites” being put forward. When moderated by an independent moderator, openness and honesty from participants is encouraged. Employees should be guaranteed anonymity during these sessions, and ideally, a note taker should scribe the session rather than recording it. Reassure individuals that their opinions and experiences will feed into an overview report of themes and that nothing will be attributed to an individual.
Suggestions for change resulting from the research can be grouped into “quick wins” ensuring employees experience the impact of their input, and “longer term challenges” to make sure some of the deeper challenges can be prioritized and tackled by management.
If you haven’t brought your qualitative skills to bear on employee happiness yet, you may want to consider adding it to your “to do” list for the future. You won’t regret it!
Janet Standen is Co-Founder of Scoot Insights, a qualitative provider specializing in helping decision-makers choose a better direction, effectively and efficiently. Her background is in innovation, business strategy and brand positioning.
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Posted By Randi Stillman,
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Updated: Monday, June 3, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Many Ways to Tell a Story: Exploring Different Approaches to Displaying Data
At the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, Caroline Volpe, Compass Market Research LLC and Maria Virobik, ResearchScribe, presented on the “Many Ways to Tell a Story: Exploring Different Approaches to Displaying Data”. Through their hands-on presentation, the presenting team shared inspiration, ideas, and tools to communicate research data in text-based reports by the creative use of visual elements to tell a story with all in attendance.
QRCs can apply a few simple guidelines and have access to free or low-cost online tools if they want to transform the bulleted text of a traditional PPT report into a visually compelling story. The presenters recommend creating a desktop inspiration folder to save icons, vector graphics (for infographics), images, and report formats, such as the methodology section for depicting the who, what, when, where, and how of your project. Don't forget to use built-in visual design elements, such as size, color, spacing, etc. for clarity, direction, and importance when you put your report together to tell a story. Some of the resources mentioned include: The Noun Project, Flat Icon, Free Pick, CanStockPhoto, 123RF, Slideshop, SmartArt, and Inkscape.
Putting it into practice:
I will continue to think visually as a storyteller when doing my own reports and I'll explore some of the resources mentioned for inspiration and new ideas.
For best results, allow yourself some time to explore and be playful when getting ideas and searching images that will help you tell a compelling story.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Bottom Line Market Research & Consulting
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Vidhika Bansal,
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Updated: Monday, May 20, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Opening Closed Doors with Role Play
Although immersive ethnographic research is the gold standard for gathering real-world insights, there are situations when financial, regulatory, logistical, privacy, and ethical constraints make such contextual research extremely challenging, if not altogether unfeasible. Luckily, as Elizabeth George shared with attendees at the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, role play is a fantastic alternative research method that can allow us to learn a lot about the nuanced conversations that occur “behind closed doors”.
By pairing a respondent immersed in a scenario with an actor who engages with the respondent to simulate a real-world situation, we can begin to better understand the natural language used and interactions characteristic of dialogue around a given product or topic. We can also gain deeper insight into the dynamics of complex decision-making, such as how potential customers may react to two different sales pitches. These insights are especially helpful in developing messaging strategy, educational content that addresses gaps in awareness, as well as gauging receptiveness to specific ideas or approaches.
- When to use it: Role play research can be especially helpful when attempting to glean nuanced information from stakeholders in industries that are highly-regulated, prohibitively-costly, or ethically-challenging.
- The process: There are several steps to the process of conducting role play research, namely: identifying the research objectives and scenario of interest, determining appropriate roles and recruiting actors for them, creating profiles and guidance for your actors and respondents, “setting the scene” for respondents and observing interactions play out, and finally debriefing both parties.
- Valuable outcomes: Content and messaging strategy development is often a key outcome of such research, along with a better understanding of receptiveness (or lack thereof) to certain products or approaches.
Putting it into practice:
The next time I work with a client in the financial or healthcare space or am struggling to get “behind a closed door” of any sort for immersive research, I will keep this invaluable tool in my back pocket as a high-quality alternative approach.
- Especially in salesperson-prospect and physician-patient scenarios, respondents often are able to act relatively natural despite being in a simulated setting with an actor because they tend to be accustomed to using role play when they are first being trained.
- Using the physical space to your advantage, by walking the respondent over to the actor (and conducting setup and debriefs in a different space), can help limit the influence of the environment being simulated vs. real for the respondent.
- Role play research can be a fantastic way to validate personas that you have already created, especially if they were proto-personas largely based on assumptions.
Liz was an absolutely fantastic presenter—engaging, knowledgeable, and able to explain her process in digestible and relatable terms—and this research method is a great one to add to our expanding toolkit.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Jeff Walkowski,
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Updated: Friday, May 24, 2019
How To Create Effective Screeners
Whether you’re experienced or just breaking into qualitative research, it never hurts to review what makes a screener effective in finding just the right people for a research project. It is a questionnaire that recruiters will use to find qualified participants for the study. It is called a “screener” because it is like panning for gold—we have to sift through many people to find the nuggets (qualified people) to be invited to participate. Screeners are used by telephone recruiters, or they may be online surveys as a way to automate the recruitment process. Automation helps reduce expense by eliminating the human effort of dialing phones and talking to potential participants. Keep in mind that automated screeners still have costs associated with them – most notably programming costs which may include quota control, skip patterns, and conditional questions (all of which are typical of any online survey).
All the rules/guidelines about questionnaire construction apply to qualitative research screeners. The most effective screeners have the following characteristics:
They Are Short
If a screener is too long, participants may hang up the phone with a recruiter or simply decide to discontinue completing an online survey. Ideally, screeners have no more than 10-15 questions, or they take no longer than 5 minutes to administer (online or offline).
They Are Clear about the Purpose at the Beginning
Tell participants that it is not a sales call. Explain that we are looking for people to participate in a market research interview, but we must spend some time asking some questions to determine if they qualify.
They Do Not Provide Hints that Encourage Cheating
They include an intentionally general description of the nature of the research so as to not tip off participants to answer a particular way so that they can be invited. For example, say, “We are putting together a focus group on beverages,” instead of “We are putting together a focus group to determine what consumers think of Starbucks.”
They Include Questions Up Front that Are Easy to Answer and that Quickly Eliminate People Without Taking too Much Time
For example, if we are looking for millennial females, we will first ask about gender and age so that non-millennial males are quickly excused.
They Include Need-to-Know Questions – Not Nice-to-Know Questions
Asking nice-to-know questions lengthens the screener, can be frustrating to potential participants going through the screening process, and makes the recruitment process less efficient and possibly more expensive. Keeping the focus on questions that help determine whether a person should be invited or not is best.
They Include Intriguing Questions
Interesting questions keep survey-takers engaged. The objective is to not lose them along the way due to boredom.
They Feature Mostly Closed-End Questions
Again, this is designed to help the prospective recruit move through the process as quickly as possible. Closed-end responses also make the task easier for the recruiter (no judgment required).
They Often Include One or More of the Following Question Types
- Product/service category use
- If they are not users of a particular product or service, they are unlikely to be useful.
- Brand(s) used more often and/or brands they would never use
- If the project is about a particular brand, we probably do not want individuals who reject the brand outright (unless, of course, the purpose is to attract those who reject the brand).
- Past participation in market research surveys, focus groups, and interviews
- Preference is given to those who are not considered “professional” participants, so that they approach the research experience with a fresh attitude.
- Employment in certain industries
- We typically do not want those who are employed in advertising, public relations, or market research. In addition, we tend to rule out those who are employed in the industry that the project is about, because they may “know too much” and not represent the typical customer for the product/service.
They May Include an “Articulation” Question
Such open-end questions are used to help ensure that a participant will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion. Sometimes questions are asked that pose a creativity challenge to the potential participant (e.g., “List 10 ways in which rubber bands might be used”). Ideally, however, a question that is related to the product category will be more relevant (e.g., in a study of high-end golfing equipment, potential participants might be asked to demonstrate some core knowledge of current equipment). In markets where participants may have differing levels of proficiency with the language to be used in the group (e.g., English), the recruiter may be asked to judge the ability of the potential participant to be clearly understood. This serves as an additional articulation assessment.
Jeff Walkowski is the principal of QualCore.com Inc., a consulting firm providing traditional and online qualitative research services to a wide range of industries including health care, financial services, automotive, and information services. He was schooled as a quantitative specialist and entered the industry in the 1980s as a statistician. He later discovered his talents as a moderator and evolved into a qualitative specialist by the mid-1990s.
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