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Theater Games in Research and Ideation

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn, Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

 Laurie tema Lyn

Bring the POWER of Theater Games to Your Next Session!

Let me start off by saying I am not an actor, although I’ve had some theater training. I earn my living as a researcher, consultant and innovation catalyst, and I’ve been doing that for decades.
I like to bring PLAY into my work as I see the results are well worth it in terms of ramping up the energy of a flagging team, developing empathy, encouraging candid, uncensored conversations and triggering or evaluating new ideas.

Using theater games builds on fundamentals that all face-to-face researchers/facilitators should have in their arsenal. They include:

  • The ability to build rapport and have fun;
  • Creating a “safe place” so people feel comfortable expressing themselves;
  • Being able to read your group through attentive listening and observation;
  • Being willing to take a risk, knowing that there are no failures — risks lead to opportunities.

Here are tips and techniques to add to your repertoire:

  • Start with an easy game; I call this one Word Salad. It’s a new twist on the tried-and-true technique of Mind Mapping by adding a pulse — a finger snap — as you capture each participant’s words on a flip chart pad. Breathe and repeat each word or phrase that you are given as you chart. It can be a bit hypnotic. Participants stop self-censoring and by pausing a moment as you repeat the words they listen, reflect and connect. A variation is to use a Nerf ball and throw it to participants to respond. Less time for “thinking,” just gut level responses.
  • Experiment with Improvs to illuminate brand perceptions, product or service use, or to inform creative strategy or positioning. It’s good to do a bit of pre-planning to identify some people, places, things or situations that you might want to see “acted out” in your work session. Position the exercise as an experiment.Ask for volunteers and give basic improv guidelines including the use of “Yes, And…” to accept or build on their partner’s offers. Remind participants that you are not looking to them to be funny or clever, just authentic to the character or situations. After you conduct a couple of improvs, it’s important to review what all have learned.
  • Theater of Exaggeration. Try this out to spice up a concept review. You might begin in your typical fashion and then encourage participants to push the boundaries. What are the Most Outrageous Plusses or Benefits to this concept? Conversely, what are the Most Outrageous Negatives to this idea? You just might end up with some new ideas or identify problems that participants had been too polite to suggest earlier.
  • Mouthfeel: Try this out to help evaluate a name and positioning. This is an improv where participants stand up and have a conversation using a new name or positioning. I recently ran a naming session with a colleague for a social services agency. We had six names in the top tier and were trying to evaluate which were the best. One of the name candidates looked great on paper, but when I asked for two volunteers to improv it (one in the role of a crisis hotline operator, the other a client calling for help) we realized it was a bear… too cumbersome to speak when used in context. We nixed that one from the list.
  • Spontaneity based on solid preparation. These games work when you mentally prepare yourselfas facilitator, prepare your respondent team by providing clear guidelines of what you are asking them to do, and prepare your client team in advance so that they won’t be shocked or worried if you include a theater game to your discussion guide or agenda.

These are just a small sampling of theater games and activities you might bring to your next gig. I encourage you to try them out and make up your own, and feel free to get in contact with me.

Links to more articles on this topic:

 

Laurie Tema LynLaurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises
laurie@practical-imagination.com

Tags:  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies  Theater Games 

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The Beautiful Human Contradiction

Posted By Kendall Nash, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Untitled Document

Practical and thoughtful, but a walking contradiction. She made it clear that every decision she made had a purpose, and every item she bought met well-defined criteria. As she described her grocery store trips, she recalled the price associated with each and every item. In order to even make it into her cart, the items on her shopping list had to fall within an acceptable and narrow margin. And yet, her eyes lit up and you could see her lost in her memories as she described the unique metal bracelet on her wrist that she had bought on a whim for 250 euro during a trip to Barcelona. She smiled again and told me about how it was made.

Scratching Our Heads
That moment when the consumer tells you something totally incongruent with the story you’ve crafted in your mind of who they are and how they live…

Those comments that seem to contradict each other within a span of minutes…

We formulate clear pictures in our own minds of who a person is and what matters to them, only for them to turn around and tell us something that leaves us scratching our heads.

In my early years as a Qualitative Researcher, I’d find myself frustrated. Seeking patterns and convergence of themes, I was always challenged when things didn’t line up. Sure, I understood things would vary from person to person, but I was caught off guard and perplexed by the number of things that didn’t add up within the perspective of one individual.

Bracelet

Humans Are Messy
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize what many before me had contemplated – that humans are, in fact, messy. We don’t follow a logical path down the road. There’s not always a reason – or at least not a consistent, or “good”, one. We don’t always make linear decisions. Sometimes we struggle with opposing internal forces that shape our mindsets and behaviors.

But then something beautiful happened.

When I looked more closely at those incongruencies within a single person, there were valuable opportunities for my client to step in and meet the consumer in the midst of the messiness. We identified opportunities for innovative products and delivery, discovered more meaningful ways to connect with those not yet using their brand, and found unique ways to give someone a great customer experience worth talking about. It was actually in those messy places we were finding our most disruptive learning – you know, the insights that make your team say “whoa, yes.” It’s exhilarating to experience those moments when you are onto something that you know will significantly and positively impact your business.

Quote 1

Unveiling the Mess with Qualitative Research

As a fan of both quantitative and qualitative research, I respect the ways both serve in delivering the information we need to make good decisions. Yes, enough people will tell you that quantitative tells you the what and qualitative tells you the why, but it’s so much more for me. Quantitative offers us sound decisions, confidence in direction before we set sail, and a big, delicious slice of the world. The beauty of qualitative is our ability to get in the nooks and crannies. To discover the mess and bring things into the light that just might unlock something truly magical for the brand. The rapport we build with consumers allows us a richer glimpse into what matters to them, so we can become brands that matter to them.

Quote 2

Embrace the Mess
Knowing that the messiness of the human heart and mind can be where the greatest potential lies for brands, we can see those moments through an entirely different lens. The next time in research you find yourself with a consumer who doesn’t seem to fit into a perfectly shaped box in your mind, celebrate! When things don’t add up exactly the way you expect them to, celebrate! You are probably onto something really good. And we go after good things.

What about you? Where have you found gold in the messiness of incongruent, inconsistent, yet beautiful human beings?

Kendall Nash Kendall Nash is a Vice President at Burke, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an instructor for the Burke Institute and a past president of QRCA. Kendall’s curiosity drives her closer to consumers and their experiences. Her thrills come from uncovering what people truly want and need, and translating that so brands can win.

Twitter: @kendallnash
LinkedIn

Tags:  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research 

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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  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  user experience 

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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  QRCA Digest  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.


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Tags:  ethnography  QRCA Digest  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  QRCA Digest  qualitative research 

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