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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Catch and Release

Posted By Melanie Brewer, Friday, February 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Catch and Release

Recruit 2.0:  Online Marketplaces

Summary:
Do you want to save time and money on recruiting?  So do I.  That’s why I was really excited for the presentation “Catch & Release: Applying My Experience Learning to Fly Fish to Using New Recruiting Tools and Services” by Ted Kendall of TripleScoop Premium Market Research. New platforms for recruiting respondents are disrupting the marketplace, similar to the ways that Uber and Airbnb disrupted the car services and hotel marketplaces. These platforms put the power into our hands, but as Ted put it, how do you decide whether these new platforms fit your recruiting needs and if they do, how do you adapt all your recruiting skills to the new medium?

Key Takeaways:
While acknowledging that no system is perfect, Ted extolled some of the advantages (big) and challenges (modest) based on his several years of experience with Respondent.io and Userinterviews.com, two platforms that are making it possible to easily recruit for qual studies – sometimes filling a study within just a few short hours and at a significantly lower cost.  Benefits include the ability to authenticate users via LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, 80% or higher show rates, easy screening, and access to diverse groups, professions and geographic locations.  While there can be a learning curve, Ted argues it's well worth it for the benefits.  In addition, the platforms are rapidly evolving and are likely to just keep getting better.  Each offers unique features, so they're both worth trying.  One twist is the need to "market" or "pitch" your study to participants, so be prepared to make your project sound awesome and exciting to motivate them to respond – but ideally without totally giving away your screening criteria.

Putting it into practice:
I plan on exploring the tools Ted presented, along with the new features that are being rolled out on a regular basis, after the conference.

A-ha moment:
The observation that these platforms are disintermediating the marketplace similar to other software tools like Uber and Airbnb, and – just like those tools – are likely to become an increasingly important part of the landscape going forward – meaning we should all learn to use them so we don’t get left behind.

I will leave you with this final pro-tip courtesy of Ted: you can use the tipping feature in Respondent to pay for extra tasks you may wish the participants to complete, like homework or pre- or post-tasks!  

Melanie BrewerQRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Melanie Brewer
Santa Barbara Human Factors, Inc.
Twitter: @melanieinsb
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melaniebennettbrewer/  

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My Experience at the QRCA Conference as a First Timer and Young Professionals Grant Winner

Posted By Sonya Shen, Thursday, February 21, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Sonya Shen is a 2019 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant helps advance promising young qualitative researchers’ careers by providing access to networking and educational sessions via a free pass to the QRCA’s Annual Conference plus a one-year QRCA membership. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.

Conference Swag

Selected Conference Swag

I won a QRCA Young Professionals Grant to the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, “Charting Your Best Course.” I just returned from spending three packed days in Savannah, Georgia learning from and connecting with other qualitative researchers.

Young Professionals Grant (YPG) Winners Received VIP Service
In October 2018, I learned that I had been awarded a YPG. I had been wanting to focus my career more on qualitative research, and winning the grant was the impetus that I needed to start making my ideas a reality. I immediately felt taken care of: YPG winners received communications leading up to the conference about events geared towards First Time Attendees and Young Professionals. I was also paired up with my own conference ambassador, Susan Sweet of Sweet Insight Group, who helped me prepare for and navigate the conference by sharing tips and introducing me to other attendees. I felt welcomed and prepared even before setting foot in Savannah.

The Conference Schedule Was Packed with Events and Sessions
I recommend planning out which sessions to attend before heading to the conference. The conference app was also helpful in the moment in figuring out where to go next (always a challenge at conferences!). A nice bonus I appreciated is that all sessions are available for viewing after the conference so attendees have less angst about missing a presentation. My FOMO turned to JOMO when I realized I could take a guilt-free break outside to recharge. I treated myself to a walk to Chippewa Square, made famous by the movie Forrest Gump (spoiler alert: there is no bench in the square, it was just there for the movie).

Qually Award Finalist Presentations
The three finalists for the Qually Award presented their proposals and took questions in front of a live and discerning audience. It was clear that a lot of preparation went into the proposals. I was impressed by the amount of camaraderie and openness to sharing that I saw.

Keynote
Dr. Carmen Simon of Memzy delivered a keynote presentation on “The Neuroscience of Memorable Messages”. We learned about memory and the fact that people only remember 90% of what was shared with them after two days. Dr. Simon discussed how to make messages more memorable and how to get people to act on a message (such as if you offer a slight twist, it will bring the brain back to the present).

Sessions
Laurie Tema-Lyn’s session on the topic of “Using Theater Games in Research” demonstrated how to use different techniques to meet a variety of research objectives. I learned how to set the stage so that researchers, respondents, and clients are all comfortable using more out-of-the-box methods such as World Salad, Improv/Role-play, and Theater of Exaggeration. The session allowed me to think creatively, practice my active listening skills, and give myself permission to try new things.

Lisa Lipkin presented on the topic of “Go from Facts to Truth with Neuroscience and Storytelling,” where she encouraged us to “make magic out of the mundane” when we are eliciting stories from respondents. Her tips included seeing the story in everything because what we store in our memories is most meaningful, and everything and everyone has a story. Lisa also encouraged us to dig deeper and be an “emotion detective,” as fact is not truth. Start with the emotion, then hang the facts on it.

Zebra Strategies’ Denene Rodney and Sharon Arthur’s session on “Ensuring Real Diversity in Qualitative Research” examined the role of the researcher as clients’ stewards to educate, guide, and safeguard them, and to better customize marketing messaging that consider cultural nuance. It shared actionable tips of how to ensure personal and collective accountability, accounting for bias, and ethical considerations. I walked away with strategies on how to exemplify this topic by being honest about what I do and don’t know, figuring out how to get answers if I don’t know something, expanding my network, developing empathy and curiosity, and to not run and to not hide.

“Opening Closed Doors with Role-Play” by Elizabeth George of Market Strategies was a deep dive into how to use role-play in research. While ethnography is the gold standard, barriers abound, such as in doctor/patient interactions. Liz walked us through the logistics of a particular type of role-play in which doctors are the respondents, actors are hired to play the patients who interact with the doctors, and the researchers are the facilitators. There was a great deal of information, and I felt like I was equipped to implement this strategy if I wanted to.

Networking Was Plentiful
I highly recommend attending a conference where most attendees are great at asking questions and where organizers are skilled at facilitating experiences. This conference checked both boxes. There were plenty of opportunities to meet other attendees and connect over shared interests. Highlights Include:

  • The First Timers Event: This was set up like a speed dating event where First Timers meet non-First Timer attendees. All the fun with none of the awkward rejection!
  • The Young Professionals Dine-Around Dinner: I connected with other Young Professionals at a restaurant in downtown Savannah. Topics of discussion were varied – from career to food, to kangaroos (friend or foe?).
  • Thursday Night Event at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub: A giant get-together for everyone at the conference which included First Timers Bingo (Tip: maximize your time in the food line by asking passers-by if they can help you cross off a bingo square).
  • The Young Professional Exchange: Career and Life Hacks to Supercharge Your Growth (Roundtable): Young Professionals convened to discuss solutions to problems they commonly face. One of the many takeaways I left with was to lean into what sets me apart as a researcher.
  • Optional Chapter Meetings: I got the opportunity to meet other qualitative researchers in my area over breakfast.

As a First Timer, I felt completely at ease while networking. The conference size was manageable, and it felt heartening to see that so many other attendees knew each other and were catching up.

There are Many Opportunities to Stay Involved After the Conference
As a winner of the YPG, I was also awarded a one-year QRCA membership. I am already signed up to attend the next SF QRCA Chapter Meeting and plan on volunteering in some capacity. There are many opportunities to stay plugged in through the QRCA forum, through a SIG (Special Interest Group), or with a committee.

Bonus “Wow” Moment: Doing chair yoga with a view overlooking the Savannah River.

The 2019 QRCA Conference was a wonderful learning and networking experience. Thank You to the QRCA and Young Professionals organization for organizing the conference and awarding me a YPG. Hope to see you next year in Austin!

Sonya ShenSonya Shen, Independent Research Consultant

Sonya is a Researcher, Storyteller, and Yoga Teacher located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Two Ways to Quantify User Experience

Posted By Lauren Isaacson, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019

Quantify User Experience

A friend of mine is a designer who has worked with various divisions of the government of Canada. She told me about working with one particular department. She would show them potential design improvements to existing websites based on qualitative usability tests and they would invariably come back with the question, "How do you know it's better?"

Indeed, how does one know for sure a new website is better than the existing version? As researchers, we know the answer — benchmarking data. However, what's the best way to benchmark the usability of a system? Two methods are commonly used by UX researchers:

  • System Usability Scale (SUS)
  • Single Ease Question (SEQ)

System Usability Scale (SUS)

SUS is the most widely used and documented of the two options, with references in over 1,300 articles and publications. It's also free and applicable to pretty much any piece of technology. SUS consists of 10 questions, all using the same 5-point scale.

1 Strongly Agree/2 Agree/3 Neutral/4 Disagree/5 Strongly Disagree

  1. I think that I would use this system frequently.
  2. I found the system unnecessarily complex.
  3. I thought the system was easy to use.
  4. I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this system.
  5. I found the various functions in this systemwide well integrated.
  6. I thought there was too much inconsistency in this system.
  7. I would imagine that most people would learn to use this system very quickly.
  8. I found the system very cumbersome to use.
  9. I felt very confident using the system.
  10. I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this system.

The numbering of the questions is essential for calculating the overall score. For odd-numbered questions, subtract 1 from each response and subtract the responses from each even-numbered question from 5. This should leave you with a final score between 0 and 40. This score is then multiplied by 2.5 to increase the range of the score to 0 to 100. This final number is a score and should not be confused with a percentage.

Lucky for us, the good folks at Measuring U have analyzed the responses from 5,000 users evaluating 500 websites and have come up with a grading system to help interpret the scores:

  • ~85+ = A
  • ~75 - 84 = B
  • ~65 - 74 = C, 68 is the average score
  • ~55 - 67 = D
  • ~45 or under = F

If you would like a more official and accurate grading system, you can buy Measuring U's guide and calculator package.

Single Ease Question (SEQ)

The other method is SEQ. Single Ease Question is less commonly utilized and has no documented standard wording, but it has the advantage of being much shorter than SUS. I am always in favor of making surveys shorter. SEQ consists of one question rated on a 7-point scale covering ease of completing a technology-enabled task. Like SUS, it is also free and applicable to almost any piece of technology.

  • Overall, how difficult or easy did you find this task?
    • Very easy
    • Easy
    • Somewhat easy
    • Neutral
    • Somewhat difficult
    • Difficult
    • Very difficult

Because there is no documented standard wording of the SEQ, you can tailor the question to cover the metric your stakeholders are most concerned about — confidence, speed, usefulness, etc. The SEQ also pairs very well with unmoderated usability tests often used by researchers who need quick feedback on interfaces.

Measuring U found the average scores across multiple websites to be about 5 (Somewhat easy), but this system is less documented than SUS. Therefore, use it to compare the before and after of a redesign, but not against other sites as you can do with SUS. If you're looking for more than just benchmarking data, you can also add two open-ended questions to the SEQ without risking excessive length.

  • What would make this website/form/app/system better?

Alternatively,

  • What is something you would fix on this website/form/app/system?

These voluntary open-ends give respondents the opportunity to offer their suggestions about what is wrong with the system and how they might make it better. It provides the potential to understand the “why” behind the data.

In the end, by using either of these UX survey question sets before a system redesign is launched and after, you will be able to tell your stakeholders if a redesign is indeed an improvement over the old, and how much better it is.

Sources:

Lauren Isaccson

Lauren Isaacson is a UX and market research consultant living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Over her career she has consulted for various agencies and companies, such as Nissan/Infiniti, Microsoft, Blink UX, TELUS Digital, Applause, Mozilla, and more. You can reach her through her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Tags:  data  qualitative research  user experience 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions

Posted By Heather Coda, Thursday, February 14, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions

QualPower Blog

Summary:
At the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, Colleen Welsh-Allen of Kantar Health provided a practical guide to behavioral science, the heuristics that most affect market research, and some clear cut ways to conduct better research with an understanding of these concepts. Behavioral science teaches us that humans are non-rational decision makers who make nearly all their decisions by using mental shortcuts (or "rules of thumb") called heuristics. As researchers we need to take these heuristics into account with our guide writing, moderating, analysis and reporting to uncover real motivations, feelings, and perceptions, and help our clients grasp them. Ultimately, to counsel our clients on how to change behavior, we need to understand behavior better.

Key Takeaways:
Heuristics drive "System 1" thinking which is automatic, effortless, and top of mind. To survive, humans rely on System 1 thinking the majority of the time.  "System 2" thinking is slow, deliberate, logical and calculating, and is used when we are learning something new. Since we as humans use both types of thinking in our lives, our research should incorporate techniques that use both systems of thinking, such as mind maps, blob tree, photo sorts, rapid fire questioning, and narrative and cognitive interviewing.

Putting it into practice:
Colleen shared practical implications of some of the many heuristics people use. Some of the best examples are as follows:

  1. LOSS AVERSION: People are more focused on avoiding loss than gaining, so consider both what respondents, as well as your clients, are concerned about losing
  2. PEAK END RULE: People assess experiences based on how they were at their peak (whether pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended so be sure to capture their sentiments at these junctures
  3. EGO: Maintaining "face" is a predominant human need which leads people to misstate actual behavior. Thus if capturing behavior is important to study objectives, find methodologies that allow you to see behavior rather than hear about reported behavior.

A-ha moment:
Some of the heuristics provide the scientific explanation to confirm what we already know to be good research practices such as the following:

  1. Word questions as neutrally as possible to avoid bias (FRAMING heuristic);
  2. Ask those questions first that require respondents not be primed. Also, be aware of anything in your appearance or demeanor, or facility surroundings that may bias the respondent (PRIMING heuristic);
  3. Capture top of mind, "gut" reactions to concepts and ads before delving deeper, and take note of body language (AFFECT heuristic). 

Colleen's presentation not only satisfies intellectual curiosity about behavioral science but also provides the rationale behind some important research practices. It introduces new tools and techniques that many researchers may not be aware of to improve the value of research, in terms of both how defend the reasons for techniques to clients, and through the results themselves.

Heather CodaQRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Heather Coda
HMC Marketing Research
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-coda-b054088/

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Using the Power of Podcasts

Posted By Karen Lynch, Thursday, February 7, 2019

Casey Bernard

Casey Bernard of Nimble MR, kicked off her presentation “Using the Power of Podcasts to Explore, Collect, and Deliver Insights” with a stunning fact: “50% of all US homes are "podcast fans", even more shocking is that podcasts are more popular than blogs right now!” From there, she took us on an audio adventure by sharing clips of some of her favorite podcasts and explaining to us all she gets out of the ones she listens to.

Key Takeaways:
As researchers, we can listen to Podcasts to (1) grow our knowledge of ANYTHING if we just look for topics we are researching and (2) glean tips for telling stories by listening to storytelling podcasts and (3) learn from expert interviewers how to hone our own craft and how we question others. There's also an opportunity for all of us to deliver findings via podcast, ensuring a different way for clients to digest information (audibly) by delivering executive summaries or full reports in this format.

Putting it into practice:
I've already subscribed to at least half a dozen of the podcasts Casey referenced in her presentation, including: This American Life, Radio Diaries, Story Corps, Beautiful/Anonymous, Take It From Me, and Everything is Alive and I recommend you do too!

A-ha moment:
How raw emotion can be heard in people's voices, delivering empathy without showcasing "the ugly cry" :-)

I loved Casey’s presentation and honestly, I can't wait to continue my learning and "charting my best course" after the conference by listening to a few episodes on the airplane, notebook in hand to capture insights.

Karen Lynch

QRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Karen Lynch
Insights Now, Inc.
Twitter: @KarenMLynch
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenmlynch/

Tags:  Podcast  QRCA Annual Conference  Qualitative research  Reporter on the Scene  Storytelling 

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Be a Consultant, Not an Order-Taker

Posted By Jay Zaltzman, Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2019

Blog QualPowerI know it’s tempting, when a client — whether it be a company or an internal client — says they want four focus groups in Chicago, to answer “coming right up!” But it’s important to remember that, as qualitative researchers, our job isn’t only to conduct discussions or interviews, but rather to design research that will be most effective in answering our clients’ research questions.

We need to remind those clients about the value we can bring to the table. Remember, they may be considering “John in Marketing — he’s good with people, let’s have him ask the questions in the focus group.” But “John in Marketing” doesn’t necessarily know about designing research methodology. And he doesn’t realize that there’s more to a discussion guide than just “asking the questions.”

So, when clients ask if I can do four focus groups in Chicago, I say I can; but then I ask them to give me the background to the project. What are their objectives? How will the results be used? Do they have a budget? Why were they thinking of four focus groups in Chicago, specifically?

In my proposal, I’ll provide a cost for the four focus groups they requested, but based on what I learned, I might also suggest some alternatives. Let’s say it turns out they wanted the four groups in Chicago because that’s local, and they don’t have the budget for executives to travel to view groups. I might suggest two mini-groups in Chicago and four online mini-groups via webcam. Or depending on the topic, perhaps to two groups in Chicago and some online journaling nationwide. And of course, I’ll explain the reasoning behind those suggestions. Even if the clients say “thanks, but we’ll stick with the four groups in Chicago,” they will be impressed by the thinking... and you’ll be more likely to be hired than the competitor who had not included those kinds of options!

And don’t forget to offer to help the clients digest the research results. I try to always include the option of running a workshop with the stakeholders after the research is completed, to discuss the findings and how they might be utilized. It’s fulfilling to see the impact of the research, and it provides more value to your clients... and that’s the name of the game!

Jay zaltzman

By: Jay Zaltzman

Jay Zaltzman believes that qualitative researchers can offer true value to clients by combining empathy with creative methodology and analytical rigor.  Jay has been president of Bureau West Market Research/Voice of the Customer for the past twenty years.  He is an active member and past president of the QRCA. 

Website: http://bureauwest.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jayzaltzman/
Twitter: @zaltzman

Tags:  Focus Groups  Qualitative Research  Research Methodology 

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Minimize the Unpredictable: 3 Tips for Great Ethnos

Posted By Rob Volpe, Ignite 360, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2019
QRCA 2018 Conference Attendees

“Expect the unexpected” is what I recently said to a client who was about to embark on her first in-home ethnography visit. Out in the real world, away from controlled environs like a facility or online platform, almost anything can happen. That’s the beauty of ethnography. You get to see life as it’s really lived instead of having it explained to you. It’s also the challenge of ethnographies. Like life, an ethnographic project can be unpredictable. While that appeals to some personality types, it doesn’t sit well with everyone, especially clients who don’t do ethnos very often.

Here are 3 ethnographic tips to transform the unpredictable into a certainty:

  1. Pre Field Work Final Prep- QRCA Get to Know Your Participants Ahead of Time – If you think it’s daunting walking into a stranger’s home, try having a group of 4-5 strangers over to your house to “put you under the microscope.” To help respondents feel more at ease, make sure they are a great fit with your recruiting criteria. To help advance the conversation upon arrival, get to know the participants before you visit them.

    This orientation can be completed through “screendowns”—phone or video calls with potential respondents recruited by the field house but not yet booked.  That conversation allows you to verify and validate what was said in the recruit as well as their comfort engaging in conversation. Or you can engage participants in an online or video activity prior to fielding and use that to help select your final participants. Both approaches enable you to get to know the respondent and, just as importantly, they get to know you. When I walk into a respondent’s home and I’m able to mention the names of my colleagues who have talked to them, I always see a glimmer of recognition and the respondent starts to relax as they’ve already made a connection with us through these earlier interactions.

    While these steps add time and dollars to the budget, they help to lower the risk that a session will be a dud. In a focus group or online community with numerous respondents, you can get beyond a quiet respondent or one or two recruits that aren’t quite the right fit. In an ethno, each respondent is the “star” of their own show. If they aren’t spot on and comfortable, it will be a loooooong session that your clients have paid a lot of money to sit through. It’s time you won’t get back, but your clients might ask for their money back. 

  2. QRCA Clients in the Field Prep Your Clients on What to Expect – If clients are joining you in the field (and hopefully they are), help them understand what it’s going to be like. Remember, your clients don’t do ethnos as often as you do. It’s even more important when you have an extended client team joining you in the field.

    We put together pre-field briefing calls and documents explaining what to expect. It aligns everyone and answers the questions they have, big and small. Can they ask questions? What should they do during the session (see tip #3 below)? Can they use the bathroom in a respondent’s house? What should they wear? When will they eat? Can they use their phone?

    The briefing is also the best time to make sure everyone is aligned on the key questions, flow of the conversation, and other points you want to make. At our company we coach clients on the 5 Steps to Building and Applying Empathy. That little bit of coaching can make a big difference in how they engage and ultimately absorb what they experience.

    The risk of not doing this? A big, disorganized mess when you get into the session. Uncomfortable clients will make the respondent uncomfortable and will lead to an unproductive session.

  3. Put Your Clients to Work for You– Ethnographies are a juggling act. Yes, you are moderating, but you are also doing things like taking notes and pictures. If clients are with you, have them help you out. Give them notebooks and ask them to take notes on their observations and what they hear. Those come in handy during debriefs in the car right after the session. You can even incorporate them into your analysis.

    Need pictures from the session? Designate one of your client attendees as the official photographer. Give them direction on what pictures you need (a nice face pic of the respondent for sure). Think ahead about what other images you might need for your report. How might images from the in-home visit help advance the story you will tell? When we have clients take pictures, we try to set a minimum — maybe 30 — so they realize they should take a lot of pictures, not just one or two. You may end up with 18… but it’s a lot better than none.

    Engaging the clients empowers them; they’re immediately more invested and at ease, which helps them get more out of the session. And it reduces your own cognitive load so you can focus on what you are really there to do – moderate the best conversation possible!

It’s unrealistic to try to solve for every variable that could possibly come up on an in-home.  I was in the middle of an in-home during the East Coast earthquake in 2011. You can’t plan for that, but you can give your clients tips on what to do to keep themselves safe. The more you make an investment upfront, the better prepared you’ll be to fully engage and get the most out of each session as the moderator.

What tips do you have for a better ethno? What challenges do you have with ethnos that you’d like to resolve? Ask away!

Rob Volpe By: Rob Volpe

Rob Volpe is CEO and Chief Catalyst of Ignite 360, an insights and strategy firm. When he’s not traveling the globe in search of the answer to the question “why,” he’s at work on his first book, Everyday Americans, his journey to understanding empathy told through his adventures in ethnography.


Sign up today for the 2019 QRCA conference.

Tags:  ethnography  qualitative research 

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Why I Never Miss a QRCA Conference

Posted By Jeff Walkowski, Thursday, January 10, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2019
QRCA 2018 Conference Attendees

I’ve missed only one QRCA conference. since I joined the organization in 1996. Since 1998, I’ve attended every annual conference. 2019 in Savannah will be no exception.

So why do I keep on going year after year after year?

I’m a big believer in professional development. I believe in the concept of education being a never-ending process — a lifelong endeavor.

Before I became an independent QRC, I had worked for a large corporate marketing research supplier that firmly espoused the idea of continuing education. I was encouraged and paid to attend relevant conferences and other educational events each year. When I went independent, I wanted to continue that tradition, and I was easily able to do so through QRCA.

Attending the QRCA conference is like getting a flu shot every year. Immersion in the conference experience (even as a passive listener) offers a form of protection. It reminds me of things I already know (but can easily forget), it allows me to learn about new techniques, and it exposes me to what’s looming on the horizon. And of course, the conference allows me to hob-nob (in-person!) with my peers — whether they are independents like me or are part of larger firms. That protective “shot” eventually wears off, so I make sure I get inoculated again by returning the next year.

In my early conference-going years, I studied the program diligently to evaluate whether it was worth my while … whether I’d get anything out of attending that year’s conference. The listed program never came up short, so I always attended.

Over the years, I stopped worrying about the program content, because I knew deep in my bones that I would come away with at least one new valuable insight about myself and my practice, or that I’d get a spark to pursue something that I’d never thought of before. It happens at every conference. The expense of attending has always been outweighed by what I returned home with.

It’s a never-ending process. The learnings from a conference will enable me to climb a rung (or two!), but once I’ve reached that rung, another one always comes into sight. So I am compelled to attend again and again and again.

I also look at QRCA conference attendance as a reward to stay in the profession. Sure, some years are better than others. And in those down years, it seems like it may be an unaffordable luxury to attend. But even in those down years, I always find others in the same boat as me at the conference, and we support each other emotionally to carry on and continue.

So, until I retire, I see myself attending every QRCA conference. For the inspiration. For the camaraderie. For helping me to be the best QRC I can be.

Jeff Walkowski

By: Jeff Walkowski

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.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-walkowski-7042551/

Web: www.QualCore.com, www.OnlineModerator.com

Sign up today for the 2019 QRCA conference.

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  Qualitative Conference  Qualitative Research 

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Applying the Design Thinking Process in Qualitative Research

Posted By Joe Sharlip, Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2019
Untitled Document applying design

Design Thinking (DT) is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown. This is accomplished by understanding the human needs involved, re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating multiple ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.

The DT mindset is a natural fit with qualitative research. As Qualitative Researchers (QRs), we are experts at delivering customer experience-based insights. As a sister discipline, DT grapples with the conundrum of how to inspire design, stirring the pot enough to generate fresh new approaches. When QRs integrate DT processes into qualitative research, we reach whole new levels of insight generation.

As a way of educating researchers on DT methodology – and its correlation to qualitative research – it’s helpful to focus on the five-stage Design Thinking model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

Stage One: Empathize
In this phase  the DT process aims to gain an empathic understanding of the issue or problem at hand. Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process, and empathy allows design thinkers to set aside their own assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into consumer-users and their needs.

Stage Two: Define
Now you can put together the information you have created and gathered during the empathize stage. You will analyze your observations and synthesize them in order to define the core problems or issues you and your team have identified to this point – stated in a problem statement that is human-centered in nature.

Stage Three: Ideation
Now designers are ready to start generating ideas. You’ve grown to understand your users and their needs, and you’ve analyzed and synthesized your information to end up with a human-centered problem statement. With this solid background, you can start to ‘think outside the box’ to identify new solutions to the problem statement you’ve created, and you can start to look for alternative ways of viewing the problem.

Stage Four: Prototype
We are now in position to produce a number of inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or specific features found within the product, so we can investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous stage. Prototypes may be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or on a small group of people outside the design team.

applying designStage Five: Testing
Designers or evaluators are now able to rigorously try out the complete product using the best solutions identified during the prototyping phase. This is the final stage of the five stage-model, but it is also an iterative process where the results generated during the testing phase are often used to redefine one or more problems and inform the understanding of the users, conditions of use, how people think, behave, and feel. In this phase, alterations and refinements can be made in order to rule out impractical problem solutions and deepen our understanding of the product and its users.


Essentially, qualitative research – as DT – is dedicated to a core principal referred to as ‘Stretching.’ Successful facilitation of stretching reaches deep beneath the surface with participants, encourages each of us to become an observer, and challenges the thinking of client-observers. There are a number of powerful benefits stretching can bring to qualitative research and the insights it can reveal:

  • Helping to support and foster creative potential within each person, honoring the leader and the learner in each individual.
  • Bringing disparate voices and teams together, trying out all perspectives and viewpoints.
  • Remaining curious and empathic about stories.
  • Embracing inspiration and ‘gut feelings’ as an equal partner to analytical thinking.
  • Opening doors to creatively imagining ideas, then pulling out all the stops in the search for new views, drawing on limitless possibilities.
  • Not being afraid to fail, and, with this in mind, constantly experimenting in courageous, resourceful, and optimistic ways.

As QR practitioners we must endeavor to be more thoughtful and deliberate about how we embrace the process of exploration. Insight and empathy are critical elements of both qualitative research and DT. The intention of both is to integrate visceral or empathic connections into the process of observing, exploring, coming up with new views, and then taking that next step into designing solutions. The goal is to trigger the imaginations of all involved.  To do this, we can introduce an additional step into the qualitative phases of research in which we engage respondents in the process of designing prototypes, product ideation, or even strategic development.” We can infuse DT tools all the way through our work. The process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users  with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave. Now, doesn’t this thought capture the essence of what qualitative research is all about?

Sources:
QRCA Views Magazine: Spring 2016 - Toolbox - Villanueva & Koronet - Design Thinking Tools for Qualitative Researchers

Interactive Design Foundation – Article By Rikke Dam and Teo Siang
https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process


joe sharlip

Joe Sharlip, QRCA Brand Manager
Joe has served in corporate, agency and consulting roles as Director of Marketing and Research, Branding Strategist and Account Planning Director for companies like American Electric Power, Pan American, and Bates Worldwide. He was recognized with a Gold EFFIE, and holds a MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut.  You can reach Joe on LinkedIn.


Tags:  design thinking  qualitative research 

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The AQR/QRCA Worldwide Conference: Experiences & Learnings from a First-Timer

Posted By Shannon Danzy, danzy consults., Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This post was written by Jessica Fennell, a 2018 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. Jessica works at Northstar Research Partners. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant recognizes promising qualitative researchers aged 35 and younger with free passes to the QRCA’s Annual Conference. The application deadline to attend January’s 2019 QRCA Annual Conference: Charting Your Best Course in Savannah, GA is September 24. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.

As a lucky recipient of the QRCA’s Young Professionals Grant, I was extremely pleased to hear that the theme for this year’s Worldwide Conference was ‘Stay Curious’. This topic felt like it had a wide scope and, for me personally, harked back to the reason I first entered qualitative research — pure curiosity about people.

What to Expect

This was also my first international conference and I flew to Spain with a very open mindset on what I would discover over two-and-a-half jam-packed days. So, what can you expect when you attend your first AQR/QRCA Worldwide Conference?

Collaboration and Open Dialogues
One thing that immediately struck me about the Worldwide Conference was the level of collaboration among attendees. This was the first conference I had been to that specifically focused on agency-side researchers attending rather than clients. Perhaps it was this, coupled with an excellent structure (which allowed for ample opportunities to meet other attendees), that fostered a general culture of openness. I found myself networking with a whole range of practitioners, sharing our experiences on how we design our projects and swapping inspiration.

Networking Made Easy
Ah, networking! I will freely admit that walking into a roomful of 100 complete strangers with the aim of making contacts is not something that has ever filled me with joy. However, as a first-timer, the reception I was given by AQR and QRCA made it easy to start conversations. For other conference first-timers, I would highly recommend stepping off the networking cliff and just giving it a go. Bring stacks of business cards and be prepared to start sharing your ideas and research practices with others. Do so and you’ll get so much back in return.

The Findings

But what about the presentations themselves? They provided a myriad of different interpretations of the conference theme ‘Stay Curious’. Standout presentations came from qual-at-scale platform Remesh and Acacia Avenue (both of which won the Sabena McLean Best Presentation Award). The speakers demonstrated a variety of approaches to the topic. These ranged from practical tips which I could see being implemented in my own research straight away, to more thought-provoking ideas and concepts.

Here are some of the standout ideas for me:

Borrowing from Surrounding Disciplines
Some of the most thought-provoking research ideas and approaches were borrowed from different disciplines. This is particularly true with regards to the communication and presentation of research ideas. Relish Research shared inspiring and practical tips about the principles of Method Acting. The technique, used by actors as diverse as Daniel Day-Lewis to James Dean, relies on the practitioner ‘becoming’ a character and completely immersing themselves in their emotions. Relish showed how adapting this method for research purposes could be used to bring clients closer to their audiences. First by setting clients a brief with the characteristics and practical limitations of their audience (budget, childcare etc.), they could be briefed to do anything from role play scenarios in workshops or shopping as their customer. The real benefit of this approach is that your clients can discover their own insights by becoming their target customer.

Prioritise Culture
Alex Gordon from Sign Salad called for cultural understanding to hold a more central role in research. To borrow the words of the writer Toni Morrison, the job of a culture expert is: “to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar." Culturally driven brand thinking allows researchers to identify and interpret where it will sit in the changing cultural future. Gordon highlighted Grant McCracken’s book, Chief Culture Officer, which calls for big organisations to create a position for a "person who knows culture, both its fads and fashions, and its deep, enduring structures."

Roben Allong at Lightbeam Communications highlighted how cultural bias or blindness towards questions of identity and culture need to be addressed by researchers as a matter of urgency. Cases like H&M’s Monkey sweatshirt PR disaster show how cultural blindness can have serious implications for both brand trust and profits. As researchers, we should always be considering the context and background of our interactions and analysis. For example, in the increasingly important new language of emojis, the Princess icon has a completely different meaning to African American women vs. Caucasian women. This is important because it is a qualitative researcher’s task to gain an intimate understanding of the target audience’s culture and language trends. Becoming culturally literate is of vital importance if we are to truly help our clients.

Thinking Critically about Your Biases
The age-old problem of avoiding bias in our fieldwork through the ‘research effect’ is still prevalent. In South Africa, Lesley Croskery of In Focus Qualitative Research talked about the potential negative implications of observing or moderating as a white researcher in black households. She advised being constantly aware of the effect your presence has on fieldwork. This could be as simple as minimising the number of observing clients to properly managing expectations about the research with participants. There are also extra considerations in a bilingual country like South Africa. Appraise not just whether conducting fieldwork in English will make research easier but whether moderating in the language they use at home would make participants feel more comfortable and open to discussion.

Both in the structure of the conference and the range of topics covered, my experience in Valencia truly embodied the topic of Stay Curious. Come with an open mind and prepared to be inspired!

Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more about the Young Professionals Grant.

Tags:  AQR  QRCA  QRCA Young Professional Grant  qualitative research  Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research 

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