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Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

Posted By Batukhan Taluy, Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

The term “agile” (with its roots in software development methodologies) has been misused in the business world for quite some time. Like its counterparts, the term agile has become a substitute for “quick and dirty” work, which has nothing to do with what agile actually is. 

Then what is agile? 

As explained in a previous article, agile is all about testing hypotheses, using forms of effective stakeholder/team communication, and most importantly, using iteration. 

In a nutshell, as is depicted in the image below, the value proposition is fairly simple. Instead of executing the whole project in one go (as in a waterfall process), agile methodology utilizes sprints whereby every sprint takes the product one step closer to the ultimate outcome. During these sprints, the intermediary outputs are validated by stakeholders (customers, team members, etc.) and this iterative process continues until the project is complete. As it is much easier to change intermediary outcomes than the whole body of a project, catching errors early drastically reduces project delivery time and improves quality.

waterfall

 

How can one use agile to achieve exponentially better results?

I was fascinated when I first heard about the Grounded Theory as a qualitative data analysis methodology. What most caught my attention was that it allowed grounding data into several sources of truth instead of only one.   

For example, we were conducting research for a bank to find innovation opportunities revolving around fraud, and how to help customers to decrease fraud in their daily lives. During the in-depth interviews, we found that fraud is very common during second-hand car sales processes. Now, here comes the interesting part. This is just one hypothesis that we found among a dozen, but it was a powerful and widespread one. To gather more data on this topic, we turned to the internet as another source of truth. 

We found a YouTube channel in the automotive category with several thousand subscribers. There was a single video on fraud during car sales that had been watched more than 2.4 million times! These behavioral consumer data indicated that we were tracking something valuable. Analyzing and clustering the comments and feedback with our anthropologist, we theorized which consumer segments would be more likely to use such a product. This is ethnography done on the internet; there is a name for this process, netnography. For the sake of this post, I will not take a deep dive into netnography, but according to Wikipedia, we can summarize it as a specific set of research practices related to data collection, analysis, research ethics, and representation, rooted in participant observation. 

Utilizing the aforementioned data, we amended our questions. At the end of the research process, we even changed the research methodology! This is just an example of how research sprints can add value to qualitative research. We start as a tabula rasa, an empty slate, and fill ourselves slowly with the information that is provided by consumers. We don’t just shape the report, but also shape our methodology, ourselves, research participants and research questions according to the data that we capture, hence we slowly dive deeper into behavioral or psychographic consumer segments. 

So how should I conduct my next research project? 

Agile is not about strict rules or utilizing strict methodologies like netnography. Sometimes we just leverage in-depth interviews in our sprints or mix and match methods, such as metaphor elicitation, UX research, or diary studies. 

The key takeaways for your next research project: 

  1. You may want to divide research into sprints and iteratively try to optimize the questions, methodology, participant choice, etc., 
  2. use several data sources to validate assumptions, not simply rely on interview data, 
  3. get creative to capture the most relevant insights and don’t be afraid to try new methods, mix and match. 

About the author:

Batukhan Taluy is a born hustler, strategist, and an insights professional. Through his company Uservision, he consulted more than 40 Fortune 500 brands globally to make them more user centric, leveraging agile qualitative insights. He has created new generation market research methodologies and approaches, which have been published and elaborated in seminars & workshops which are organized by leading institutions and universities. He is also an avid technology, music, film enthusiast and a lifelong learner. 

Tags:  Agile Research  Humanizing Research  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Beyond Storytelling: When, Why and How to Work with Stories

Posted By Farnaz Badie, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Beyond Storytelling: When, Why and How to Work with Stories

Presenters: Criscillia Benford and Anna Marie Trester, PIER Consulting Group


Summary of Conference Session

This session's speakers are both social scientists, focused on linguistics and humanities. Their powerful session at the QRCA Conference looked at the use of narrative inquiry and storytelling in order to facilitate workplace conversations and help organizations build better work environments and relationships with their customers.

Key Session Takeaways

There's nothing more deeply human than stories. As long as humans have been able to talk, we’ve been telling stories. We process what’s happening to us and catalogue it in the form of stories. In Silicon Valley, storytelling is now starting to replace traditional methods, such as surveys, in assessing employee satisfaction. The speakers use narrative inquiry to help organizations learn how communication is experienced within their cultures, and how these experiences shape their cultures.

There are three key steps to the process of a narrative inquiry:

Step 1 – collect stories

Step 2 – process stories

Step 3 – look for patterns among the stories

In the case of an organization looking to better understand its current culture, step one involves meetings with stakeholders in order to consider what the experience of a young employee in their organization may be like, and ultimately formulating two to four themes. The speakers then use a story circle whereby 10 employees/peers sitting in a circle share their stories about the organization. An example of a prompt for the story circle: "Think about a time when a supervisor gave you some advice—it may have been in a formal setting, like in their office, or an informal setting, like in a coffee shop. What did the supervisor say and how did you feel about it?"

In step two, a group of 10-30 stakeholders review the stories collected from the employees, and start to make sense of them by considering the emotions, feelings, actions, and dialogues expressed in those stories.

In step three, the stakeholders start to cluster the ideas emerging from the stories and look for repetition and patterns of behavior within their organization.

In summary, narrative inquiry is used to identify what’s working and what’s not working in a culture. From there, the team helps the organization create intervention initiatives. Storytelling can be used in many ways to help our clients better understand a challenge they are facing. For example, storytelling can be used in new product development projects, where moderators can ask respondents to tell us the best and the worst stories they have had with a particular category or brand.

Aha Moment

The presenters emphasized that as facilitators during the narrative inquiry, we have to be as invisible as possible—if you intervene in the stories being told, you won’t hear the details.

Final Comments

Stories contain worlds... but it's just as important to hear what isn't being said (referred to as a Noisy Not), as it is to hear what is being said.

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Farnaz Badie, The Thought Bubble

Tags:  human behavior  humanizing research  listening  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative Methodologies  Qualitative Methods  Research Methodologies  types of research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Cultivating Connection: Helping Decision-Makers Understand the Humans Behind the Data

Posted By Marta Villanueva, Thursday, June 18, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 18, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Cultivating Connection: Helping Decision-Makers Understand the Humans Behind the Data

Presenter: Cory Davison, 4Xperience


Summary of Conference Session

At the QRCA Annual Conference presenter Cory Davison of 4Xperience asked attendees, “How do you connect the qualitative findings with the decision makers, to further drive action?”.

One of the biggest challenges for qualitative researchers is to deliver insights to the different audiences and promote a common understanding of who the humans are providing input in the research. Driving action makes our research meaningful. Action starts with “humanizing” the data and connecting with the decision-makers who may interpret the research from many different perspectives.

During her presentation and utilizing real case studies, Cory Davison shared a simple framework with 5 steps (Relate, Speak their Language, Understand their Audience, Walk in their Steps, and Focus on the “So What” which can be the bridge to connect consumers and the humans interpreting the data.

Key Session Takeaways

I really enjoyed Cory’s session and had many “takeaways” including the heart of her presentation which was that as qual professionals we need to find a way to relate to clients through stepping into their world and remembering that they deal with varying thoughts, feelings, emotions, just like us. They are deserving of our empathy.

The boardroom dishes out many challenges including shorter attention spans, dealing with big data, many versions of the truth, etc. By remembering that our clients are human like us, we can make presentations interactive, build bridges from an experience perspective, and use tools like the Insights Discovery Tool to understand what clients know, believe, and do can break down barriers to connection.

On the topic of presentations, we need to make sure that as practitioners we are speaking the same “language” in order to connect with our clients. Focus on what matters to them, including the metrics client uses, emphasizing the story the data creates, developing a process map with interval views (product/brand path from beginning to end), and an experience map (showcases what happens when the human factor is involved). Understand their audience and bring it to life through personas. Most importantly, Cory reminded all of us to “be clear about what you know and don’t know”.

Present the data in a way that can be understood. Researchers and qual professionals need to remember that journey maps are different from process maps.

  • Journey maps are about what customers do vs. what a brand wants them to do.
  • Journey maps answer: what does the persona do, think, say, feel? “So what?”

We must direct clients in what to do with the data. The “so what” must include the persona, company, and solution. Coming up with a mantra or agreement statement can aid understanding - something clients can go do. For example, we can use an action phrase to make the connections for clients: "Therefore we recommend/enabled by/ and if we do this…."

Aha Moment

It’s very easy to get caught up in the research and forget that clients are “human” too. This presentation was a great reminder to take the time to understand the client pain points, their stakeholders, and ways to connect with their preferences using a tool like Insights Discovery.

Final Comments

We forget the power behind the creative techniques used with consumers. Our tools can easily be adapted for relationship-building with clients.

Moving forward, I will be adapting my deep dive techniques developed for consumers to connect with clients.

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Marta Villanueva, NuThinking

Tags:  actionable insights  Humanizing Research  Insights  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative  Research Methodologies 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: FG BnB!

Posted By Brooke Bower, Thursday, May 21, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: FG BnB!

Presenters: Abby Leafe, New Leafe Research and Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises

Summary

At the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference, presenters Abby Leafe and Laurie Tema-Lyn asked all of us “What happens when you bring the sharing economy to the world of research?” Turns out, a lot of exciting things! Throughout the session, Abby and Laurie creatively (and practically!) presented how we can use alternative venues for conducting qualitative research such as AirBnB and Peerspace and how to ensure that a project is a success once the right space is identified.

The engaging session provided real world instances of this method. Both Abby and Laurie utilized their own experiences using unique spaces to conduct qualitative research throughout, including an instance where an LA mansion proved to be the ideal setting for three days of focus groups and client innovation sessions for a start-up client on a budget, leading to development of a pipeline of new product ideas, some of which are now in the marketplace. As they pointed out, not everything is sunshine and roses when utilizing these spaces. Both Abby and Laurie highlighted some hard-earned learnings about how to avoid problems and ensure our sanity when working in a new space that may not be set up for our research.

Key Takeaways

Non-traditional locations can be great for the right project. The project should have a very specific reason for choosing a non-traditional venue and all logistics associated with the venue need to be explored and planned for. The general elements to consider include:

  • How to get there: for clients, respondents, and the researchers.
  • Comfort: what is needed to make the research comfortable and is there enough privacy for the structure of the research.
  • Technology needed: can be the biggest factor to consider.
  • Budget: sometimes non-traditional locations can be a cost saver, but researchers must think through everything you need to bring that might be in a traditional facility,  i.e. multiple types of creamer, buying easels/office supplies, bringing in snacks and meals, staffing the location to have a facility manager.
  • The intangibles: the ambiance fit for the project, your gut feeling.

If all of these are considered and it is a fit for the project, the right place can help stimulate creativity and engage the mind in different activities, communicating to clients and respondents it is not business as usual!

A key tip from both Abby and Laurie was to thoroughly prepare the clients and respondents for the venue. Overcommunicate about it. Write a letter to the respondents introducing yourself as the moderator, telling them about the purpose of the research and why it is being held in the non-traditional location, and how to get there with special parking instructions.

Aha Moment

The fun, non-traditional location can strengthen the depth of your connection with your client as it takes you out of the standard business setting (i.e. debriefing in a luxury LA mansion by the pool after the respondents have left!). This presentation really broadened my mind and encouraged me to think more creatively when I am looking for research venues!

Final Comments

The topic of this presentation was creative and provided fresh ideas to re-energize research projects!

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Brooke Bower, Independent Research Consultant

Tags:  focus groups  human behavior  Humanizing Research  market research  marketing research  mobile research  Moderating  outreach  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative Methodologies  Research Methodologies  research methodology 

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Quarantine Connections: How Virtual Coffees Can ‘Brew’ Renewed Connections

Posted By Cynthia Harris , Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quarantine Connections: How Virtual Coffees Can "Brew" Renewed Connections

When stay-at-home orders went into place in Ohio, I immediately felt sadness as I had hoped to do more in-person qualitative work and workshops this year. After traveling for the past year and focusing on digital methodologies, I was excited to connect live with consumers and colleagues in-person again in 2020.

As a naturally curious researcher, I began to think through how I could stay connected with consumers and clients while still honoring the mandates to mitigate COVID-19. “I can still deeply connect with consumers and colleagues virtually… After all, that’s solely what I’ve been doing while traveling the world for the past year!” While my Plan A had to be tabled, I had a new, intriguing idea that began to emerge.

Enter Plan B... my idea to have 30 virtual coffees with 30 different people within the next 30 days.

Little did I know I would learn so much from this experience about how to creatively plan research occasions, how to stay in touch with colleagues digitally and how to keep the human spirit alive despite social distancing.

Here are the top five things I learned:

  1. People are enthusiastic to connect: I was blown away by how many people were eager to catch up. From former colleagues to college friends to mentees I had not caught up with in a while, it was such a joy to reconnect with people who have meant a lot to me over the years. Do not underestimate the fact that we are all looking for connection during this time. People will be enthusiastic to catch up with you!
  2. Innovative ideas can come through casual conversation: During one of my coffee chats, a client and I tossed around ideas for how to tackle an upcoming research objective. We were not talking through a specific brief. We have not even booked the work (yet). But, I do think we gained a deeper rapport with one another because we entered a deeper “circle of trust”’ Use this time to pursue depth with people. It is mutually appreciated!
  3. Using a calendar service: Sure, I had heard of calendar services like Calend.ly and you can book me. But it was not until my “30 for 30” quest that I used a calendar service. And, my oh my, it was the point guard to my playbook! I am now convinced that leveraging one of these services is an incredible way to broaden conversations with clients and potential clients in a way that is convenient for you and them.
  4. Digital rapport-building is a craft: Though I have spent the past year focused primarily on digital research, this experience reaffirmed my belief that engaging authentically online requires skill. Sure, there are lots of articles on “how to design your background and how to have proper lighting,” but truly connecting with audiences via screens takes practice. Spending time with people over virtual coffees can help you build this muscle if digital moderating is something you aspire to given our current working conditions.
  5. Everyone is learning something new these days: I was amazed that each conversation I had resulted in me taking a note or two to research further. I learned about a community garden in my neighborhood; I learned more about GDPR; and more! My point is, we all are exploring new topics these days and you can learn so much from others. Instead of getting straight to business, find out what your clients might be expanding into these days.

In the book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi states, “Wherever you are in life right now and whatever you know, is a result of the ideas, experiences and people you have interacted with in your life.”

My plan B ended up being a foray into renewed relationships, creative thinking, and potential future business. While we may be quarantined and craving in-person connection, I encourage you to consider a Virtual Coffee quest of your own. You will likely cherish each conversation and perhaps learn something new. Embrace Plan B. Something beautiful might be brewing inside Plan B.

Author Bio:
Cynthia Harris is the founder of 8:28 Consulting, a boutique qualitative research and marketing strategy company focused on designing digital and in-person experiences to amplify the voice of consumers. Cynthia’s career spans market research and marketing experiences across many categories ranging from health and beauty to the food industry. She is passionate about advocating for consumers in creative ways. Cynthia has an MBA from the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

Email: cynthia@the828firm.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cdharris

Instagram: @hello828consulting

Tags:  digital research  human behavior  humanizing research  QRCA Digest  qualitative research 

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Deep Listening: 10 ways to strengthen connection while social distancing

Posted By Marta Villanueva, Friday, April 10, 2020

Deep Listening: 10 ways to strengthen connection while social distancing

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Standing on a busy corner in Los Angeles with a “free listening” sign was a humbling experience. This was not an experiment in rejection—though I experienced much of that. It was an experiment to engage in conversation with perfect strangers on the street with no other goal than to listen deeply. This required stretching my listening muscles into uncertainty and ambiguity.

This experiment was led by Urban Confessional as part of a QRCA Conference. I have conducted thousands of sessions as a qualitative researcher, which have made me an expert at listening and asking thoughtful questions. My frequent “free listening” via phone or video call to meet the global need for connection these past weeks has further flexed my listening muscles.

COVID-19 has caused a collision of our business and personal worlds in myriad ways. The slurry of emotions being stirred up by this crisis is spilling over into our work. Deep listening on the job is now more important than ever, because our emotions carry a powerful weight. Left unchecked, they can negatively impact our interactions. Compound that with social distancing and we find ourselves in a situation ripe for negativity.

  1. The Good News: Deep Listening Can Overcome the Negative Impact of Social Distancing
    Overcoming the hardships of social distancing requires deliberate connection with those around us. Deep listening can form a bridge to compassion and empathy—much needed gifts in our current reality. Communication with those around you must reflect an understanding which stems from deep listening. This is especially critical for anyone in a leadership role.

  2. The Hurdle: Deep Listening Doesn’t Just Happen; It Requires You to Deliberately Follow a Set of Key Steps
    The following guidelines will provide direction to strengthen your relationships through the practice of deep listening, especially while social distancing.

  3. Bring awareness to the situation.
    Check in with yourself before engaging in deep listening and throughout the conversation. Acknowledge and process any biases toward the person or situation; writing them down can be helpful. Bring awareness to these biases and focus on releasing them as best you can. Ensure you are not engaging in deep listening with the goal of fixing the person’s situation. Focus only on authentic listening.

  4. Set the stage for listening.
    Put aside any distractions. Pretend this conversation is the only thing happening in the whole world. That is how intentional you need to be. Check your body language, even if your listening is on the phone. Your body language can impact your engagement level. When the person can see you, your body language needs to communicate support, encouragement, and active listening. Set your intention for deep listening. Are you listening to connect, understand, or for a different purpose? Decide and commit to staying with that intention.

  5. Monitor your listening.
    Be intentional in regarding the other person’s experience over your own. If your mind starts to wander, redirect it. This can be done with a clarifying question (“How did that make you feel?” “What else is going on?”) or through the use of supportive body language (nodding, eye contact).

  6. Explore and clarify.
    Your questions need to be open and free from judgment. Sometimes a simple, “Say more about that” can be enough to achieve full understanding. Clarifying questions seek to authentically understand further. Make sure that what you are taking in matches what they are saying. Your clarifying questions will help you understand the situation deeply.

  7. Allow space for full-out venting.
    After the person has finished talking, you want to make sure they got everything out that needed to be said. Ask: “Is there anything else?” If there is, you need to go back to listening while deferring judgment. Continue asking if there is anything else until the answer is “no;” you can use this as an indicator to turn your focus to the emotion.

  8. Uncover the emotion.
    To gain complete understanding, you need to get at the emotion behind the situation. Ask: “How does this make you feel?” Once the emotion is expressed, your job is to validate it. Suppose the emotion expressed is sadness; you need to think about a situation that elicited the same emotion (a shared situation is the most impactful). Ask: “Is the sadness you feel similar to the time your son broke his ankle or closer to when you were taken off the new business project?” “On a scale of 1 to 10, how sad do you feel?” “What color would you associate with your sadness?” Ask exploratory questions until you truly understand the emotion associated with the situation. This step is key in not only validating the emotion, but also ensuring the person feels completely heard.

  9. Be open to silence.
    While deep listening, you will talk less and listen more. Pauses may seem interminably long. You may feel uncomfortable, awkward, or even like you want to run. Stay with it. Honor the person by holding yourself in deep listening mode. Search their body language for cues when it is OK to talk or listen for the pauses.

  10. Lead with empathy.
    Show the person you are listening, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing. Stay focused on “seeing” the person’s heart. Allowing them the opportunity to have their say without judgment communicates acceptance. And don’t we all need to feel real acceptance right now?

Employ deep listening to connect with those around you. Wherever you may find yourself, people desperately need deep listening. We are all going through a very difficult situation. Nobody is immune. Companies/teams/colleagues/parents all need to be sensitive to the unique needs emerging during this time. If someone shares something that requires professional support, help them find the right resource.

Deep listening will strengthen your relationships when they need a little bolstering. If you need help in implementing these best practices or could use some “free listening,” please reach out. We can all help each other emerge stronger from this pandemic.

 

Marta Villanueva is a Bicultural/Bilingual qualitative researcher/strategist with experience across categories and methodologies (online, in-person, telephone). She has a M.Sc. in Creativity and Change Leadership which adds a rich dimension to every engagement. Marta is the co-chair for the 2021 QRCA conference and the QRCA 2015 Maryanne Pflug Award Winner.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/martavillanueva/  

www.nuthinking.net

@nuthinkinginc

 

Tags:  communication  human behavior  Humanizing Research  humans  market research  marketing research  mobile research  outreach  qualitative  qualitative market research  qualitative research  research methodology 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Wise Ways to Go Forward with Humanity

Posted By Arilene Hernandez, Independent Consultant/Behavioral Health Clinician, Thursday, March 5, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene:
Wise Ways to Go Forward with Humanity

Presenter: Naomi Henderson, RIVA Market Research & Training Institute

 QualPower Blog

Summary of Conference Session
The 2020 QRCA Annual Conference gave all who attended the chance to hear from a plethora of talented and respected speakers, including a bonus keynote, the qualitative superstar herself, Naomi Henderson!

During her closing keynote presentation, “Wise Ways to Go Forward with Humanity”, Naomi gave a look into the story of her birth, a foreshadowing of the uniqueness she was to embody for the rest of her life. This uniqueness bleeds into her work today and led her down the path of training researchers in the art and science of rigorous qualitative research techniques. During her presentation Naomi identified for the audience the four qualities that distinguish qualitative researchers. The main one being that “we are inspired to use those things that make us human to be the translators for those who are deaf to the voice of the consumer.”

Aha Moment
Naomi’s metaphor of how the back of the hand and the palm of the hand represents quant and qual research, respectively, was a fascinating take on how the two worlds of research interact and how qualitative research is so important for clients to understand their consumers.

Final Comments
Naomi’s presentation was a reminder that being human and connecting with other humans is what facilitates great qual research. She inspired the audience to continue to be creative, passionate and embrace humor.

 

Arilene HernandezQRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Arilene Hernandez, Independent Consultant/Behavioral Health Clinician

Tags:  Humanizing Research  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative  Qualitative Research  Quantitative 

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