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.
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.
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
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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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
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.
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.
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!
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
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Roben Allong and Barbara Hairston,
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Re-Thinking the Rules of Engagement for Virtual Research Theatre
by Roben Allong and Barbara Hairston
(Photo credit: Julia M. Cameron)
Savvy qualitative researchers are not waiting for a “new normal” to emerge. They are re-thinking engagement rules before they step back into the research theatre, post COVID-19. Engaging consumers post-crisis — when experiences across racial, ethnic, employment, and geographic lines are newly imprinted and quite disparate — is an opportunity to re-calibrate the way we conduct qualitative research, whether in-person or online. To state the obvious, no one has been left untouched by the pandemic’s sudden disruption of human behavior and norms; this requires a new look at the rules for qual research interaction.
While participants are available and willing to talk, many are still in crisis physically, mentally, and even financially. Qual researchers should not expect that study participants will be mindfully available or fully cogent in responses, especially given their disparate experiences. Post-COVID-19 study designs will require that we look beyond traditional methodologies and techniques. This post will outline five guidelines that can be deployed to elevate engagement for a more insightful study, whether in-person or virtual. These may already be familiar but are worth revisiting; how we apply them in this new normal may also help us elevate the practice.
First, be as transparent as possible to re-establish trust. Basic trust between people has been severely upended. Transparency is needed now, more than ever; that includes reassuring participants of the protocols that are in place to ensure participants’ physical and mental health before starting your focus group or interview interaction. Meeting vulnerable communities where they are is imperative to rebuild trust. Clearly express participation expectations and also acknowledge that the crisis has had an impact. This is especially important for online video studies where building effective rapport in a virtual environment requires greater specificity and clarity. Transparency helps reduce fear of the unknown and the unexpected that participants may not even realize they are harboring since the advent of COVID-19.
Second, create and enforce a no judgement zone that supports study participants as they share their truth, that may even be new to them. Avoid unconscious bias. Be especially mindful of how you ask questions; choose your words and examples carefully. Tap into unfamiliar emotions that they are feeling and expressing freely without judgement. Don’t assume that what you do in person—the tone, body language and energy you radiate to encourage respondent rapport and engagement—is easily transferred to a video platform. There is distance between you and participants and between participants themselves. Subtle body movements, tones, whispers, eye expressions that we noticed and took for granted can go undetected in a virtual focus room. Paying even closer attention is mandatory. Think about the things you do that work well for you in person and how you can effectively alter and adapt them to the virtual environment.
Third, be authentically empathetic. Don’t assume that this is a participant’s first Zoom “rodeo” of the day nor that they are a pro at video calling. They are still living full lives and despite agreeing to take part in the research study, may not be fully present. Allow yourself to feel how being unemployed or working from home, fielding multiple conference calls, applying for jobs online, managing a team remotely or household with everyone in it simultaneously, or home-schooling children for the first time, informs their attitudes and perceptions. Be patient and build in extra time for them to collect themselves and their thoughts.
In order to get a full understanding of mindset and behavior changes, it important to not only have a good representation but also cultural understanding across all ethnicities in order to uncover the hidden stories that lead to critical insights and innovation. Make it a priority to be mindful that, because of racial, ethnic, gender, disabilities, and economic disparities, the pandemic has had a disparate impact on various segments. Build a strong, sharing, and meaningful connection by better understanding diverse cultures and validating unique experiences.
Fourth, increase pivot-ability. As clients and brands pivot toward quick data insights from quantitative because it’s relatively inexpensive and fast, accelerated qual interviews and even faster analysis and reporting will soon be the norm. However, qual by definition is not fast. Getting to the deep emotional recesses of the mind and memory takes time. As Einstein advised more than 100 years ago, time is relative. Pivoting to nimble online tech tools that combine and speed up parts of the qual methodology (such as fielding hybrid studies, insight gathering, analysis, and reporting) is essential. Our current fast-paced climate does not allow for clients to fully “embrace” the qual process, nor do some want to. To meet those emerging needs, wants, and expectations with more speed and acuity than before, qual researchers need to re-think their process and deliverables.
Fifth, be even more curious. Everything around us is changing. The past, in many cases, is only a reference point. The more we hear from participants, the broader our understanding will be of the evolving impact of COVID 19. That means we have to be more curious and avoid the temptation to make assumptions. Try to really understand that things that were once tried and true may no longer hold that position, in the minds of respondents. Things that they believed were once under their control, no longer are. Where they felt safe before, even to the point of taking things for granted, they don’t anymore. There has been a paradigm shift. Explore ways to better understand and accurately interpret the new context from the eyes, ears, and circumstances of our study participants.
COVID-19 has changed the rules of human interaction — which is the equivalent of a seismic shift in qualitative research. COVID-19’s forced contact deprivation coupled with the accelerated wide acceptance of video calling for both business and personal use has hastened a rethinking of how, when, who, and why we connect virtually. As the frequency of online qual research accelerates, we have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to adapt what we know and create new best practices to facilitate a different, deeper, more meaningful interaction in a virtual environment. Obviously, the ideas presented here are by no means exhaustive but are designed to spark alternative thinking. As you ruminate on all the possibilities, what approaches are you are re-thinking for this new post-COVID-19 research theater engagement?
Roben Allong considers herself a research “spelunker” focused on exploring what lurks deep in the caverns of the global cultural zeitgeist. As CEO of Lightbeam Communciations, she is an innovative researcher with over a decade of knowledge and trend expertise across a broad spectrum of consumers, brands and industries. She is currently a QRCA Board member and Chair of QRCA New York Metro Chapter.
Barbara Hairston has a broad base of experience and expertise conducting studies for public health education, K-12 education, higher education, and social issues clients. Through her firm Resources International Inc., she conducts research using a variety of online and face-to-face methodologies to deliver the best possible research solutions among adults/seniors, general market and African American segments, physicians and allied health providers, and stakeholders.
Remote Market Research
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Posted By Katrina Noelle,
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Use the CDJ Framework to Innovate Methods
Innovate your tools and methods by going on your own customer journey; become a customer on a journey through your own methods! In order to keep qualitative insight “approaches to understanding customers” fresh and relevant, you should consider, evaluate, buy, enjoy, advocate, and bond with the methods you use to understand consumers.
The customer decision journey (CDJ) is a model that shows how customers complete a purchase, guiding marketers where and what they should do along the way. Borrow this approach to go on your own journey to develop and choose new tools, techniques, and methodologies.
The journey begins with the consumer’s top-of-mind consideration set – just like consumers do.
- Start by considering your needs. Why are you choosing to iterate an existing method or start offering a new one?
- Brainstorm with your team. Where are opportunities for improvement? What do team members want to try/experiment with?
- Make a list of all the contenders. Then walk through each of them, asking yourself:
- Is it answering a need? Filling a gap?
- Is it giving your team something new or unique?
- Can you explain succinctly the value proposition and point of difference as though you were in an elevator with a prospective client?
- Is anyone else doing it? Who? How? Could you offer it differently?
- Test your ideas. While you do so, be sure to constantly ask for feedback from your team, participants, and clients.
- Track iterations and updates. Chronicle changes made to the approach at every step because your ideas may morph, combine, or improve as you progress.
- Be open. Keep an open mind to the changes/modifications/new ideas along the way.
- Keep asking. Constantly query if the new/improved method is filling a need. Is it improving an older process or adding something new?
3. BUY OR CHOOSE
We’ve included “choose” in this traditional third step because when choosing a methodology, it’s often just that – a choice, a decision to move forward in a certain way – not a purchase.
- Note: this step is sometimes overlooked. After all this work, it’s hard to say “no” to an idea to which you’ve grown close. But keep in mind that rolling it out is an even bigger step than testing it.
- If you decide NOT to move forward, table it in a helpful way. Make note of learnings that could be used in a different format or could serve another purpose at some other time.
4. ENTER THE LOYALTY LOOP: Enjoy, Advocate and Bond
Take a moment to ENJOY your hard work; now is the time to advocate your development with your broader organization and with clients. Try a pilot test with an understanding client or ADVOCATE the approach within your organization!
- Ground everyone. To do so, establish with everyone a need you are trying to meet, the gap you are trying to fill, and/or your rationale for adding this approach.
- Bond. Bonding in this sense means that the team gets familiarized with the new approach and comes to see it as their own. Solicit feedback from participants about their experience. Ask clients how they are using the new approaches and what could be improved further.
- Engage. Ensure your team are staying engaged, enjoying the experience, and getting the most out of the new methods as they are a part of the continual evolution.
This post was inspired by a presentation entitled “Innovate Your Tools And Methods By Going On Your Own Customer Journey” at the CX Talks event in Chicago held on September 24, 2019.
Katrina is principal of KNow Research, a full-service insights consultancy specializing in designing custom qualitative insights projects for 16+ years to unlock insights about brands and target audiences. She is also co-founder of Scoot Insights, whose trademarked ScootTM Sprint approach helps decision-makers choose the right direction.
President, KNow Research, Co-Founder Scoot Insights
www.knowresearch.com / www.scootinsights.com
@kat_noelle / https://www.linkedin.com/in/katrinanoelle/
Customer Journey Maps
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Posted By Katye Hamilton,
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Qualitative Research 101 – A Guide to the Basics of Qual
Qualitative Research 101 – A Guide to the Basics of Qual
Are you new to qualitative research or want a refresher on the different styles of group discussions that typically encompass qual research? While the topics you explore in each session will vary widely, there’s a basic group structure to take into consideration before you start building your discussion guide. First, decide if your research objectives need face-to-face (F2F) solutions or if an online approach will work.
For best group dynamics, the ideal total participants is 4-6 people. Any larger and you won’t be able to hear from each participant as often or dive deep into the conversation with everyone involved. The discussion is led by a moderator and you may see an assistant or dual moderator in the room. The moderator(s) lead the group from topic to topic and encourage all to contribute.
Standard focus group rooms have a one-way mirror for clients to observe the session in real time. Photo courtesy of Issues & Answers and their Virginia Beach Facility.
Dyads and Triads
These are groups with only two or three participants, respectively, plus the moderator. Maybe it’s a physician, patient, and caregiver doing an appointment mock-up. Or you want to have a focused discussion with just a few consumers; three pet parents, each with a pet with a specific dietary need. The conversation is likely going to be less exploratory and more focused so you can dive into details quicker. Dyads and Triads are great when there’s a monitoring session, like website navigation or roleplaying situations.
In-Depth Interview (IDI)
A true one-on-one interview involves a moderator + respondent. The power in an IDI usually stems from the research topic at hand. Is it a sensitive subject like health care, death, financial, etc.? Or maybe it’s understanding a person’s journey – purchasing process, behavior understanding, etc. Isolating the respondent helps promote a feeling of safety in the conversation as well as creates an opportunity to explore subjects more deeply.
All three of these session types can be executed in a research facility, off-site with cameras for recording, or online with a focus group vendor. Most clients want to see and hear the conversations in real time, so they watch from what we call the “back room” which may be a physical room at a research facility or off-site, or in a virtual back room with an online provider.
There are some innovative focus group spaces that shake up the traditional, round table/conference room set-up with more relaxed or on-topic scenes. Check out Good Run Research & Recreation; they have a formal living room and bar room models (still with the one-way mirror, complete back room experience for clients) to amplify the respondent and moderator discussions.
These have a lot of names (workshop, co-creation, etc.), but the premise is pretty similar across the board. These are sessions where you bring multiple groups of people into a room together. When you have a client that wants to be highly engaged with the process, and not just an observer, you may want to tap into these models. These could be:
- An internal workshop with employees from multiple departments (stakeholders) and you as the moderator facilitate the group activities and conversation.
- A session where you mingle clients with the respondents for brainstorming, ideation, new product development, etc. Clients would likely be spread out among the respondent tables so they can engage directly as well as learn firsthand their experiences and ideas.
Marketing research ethnographies are never “hands-off.” In the education space, a true ethnography would have little to no engagement with the person or people you are observing; you’re meant to do just that – observe. In marketing research, we believe in the power of observation plus asking questions.
Ethnographies in MR can come in the form of in-home interviews, shop-alongs where you meet a respondent at a specified location and track their buying process, or even on-location research. The purpose is to get the respondent in a natural environment, rather than a traditional focus group setting. This is helpful when you need fewer recall answers and more in-the-moment engagement.
Other F2F Types
The list above is not meant to be exhaustive; in-person intercepts and telephone interviews can be important for your qualitative research, depending on the objectives. Is there another form of F2F that I missed? Tell me about your methodology in the comments!
Online qual solutions have expanded tremendously in terms of vendors, programs, platforms, and the types of research executions available — from desktop applications to mobile phone apps. It’s important to consider online styles when your client may have a limited budget or there’s a tight timeline that limits your travel opportunities.
Methods may vary, from text-based surveys with auto Q&A to mobile apps that track respondents’ phone patterns (the apps they open, websites they checked, etc.). Sometimes it’s important to engage and observe in a respondent’s natural habitat – their mobile device. Maybe you need to geo-ping respondents for a study when they’re near a certain location and you need photo collectors?
Communities vs. Online Bulletin Boards (OLBB)
For some, online communities are virtual hubs for long-term or continual engagement. The online community acts as a “panel” of ready respondents for your ongoing topic.
Shorter engagements are sometimes called communities or online bulletin boards. These could be as short as 2-3 days with a few dozen respondents. There are multiple engagement activities from photo collages, Q&A, group discussions, etc. OLBBs may be less flashy and more of a straight discussion thread. There could be engagement through liking/commenting on others’ posts, but the conversation itself is pretty straightforward.
Semantics aside, this type of online qual is still moderated! Through probing questions, video chats, or private messages, the moderator writes the discussion guide and engages with the respondents in the platform to promote responsiveness, details, and any follow-up questions that may arise. These tend to be a solution for more respondent engagement than in a one-time fixed setting and give respondents flexibility with their dedication since many are mobile enabled.
Since the Fall of 2017, InsightsNow’s Clean Label Enthusiasts™ is an online community which offers ongoing insights into a range of topics, providing a highly flexible research solution for quick answers.
Just like the F2F group types, you can translate that experience into a digital medium. Multiple vendors allow moderators to share their screens, their stimuli, allow for group chat, individual webcams and a client view. Doing online groups in this way helps alleviate any travel pains but does usually require more technology-adept consumers – something to consider if that may change your recruit type.
I’m specifically leaving out the topic of surveys for this blog post! While some surveys can be qualitative in nature, most of the time they still fall into the realm of quant. Qual derives part of its value from the moderated content — something we haven’t been able to solve fully in the survey space.
I hope you either learned something new with this post or gained fresh inspiration for a project you’re working on. Tell us about your qual methods in the comments!
About the Author:
Kayte Hamilton is a hybrid marketing researcher with a passion for solving complex client problems. She’s got a knack for sorting out the details while maintaining project integrity. In her free time (ha!) you will find her spending time with her dog Muffin, traveling the states, or volunteering.
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