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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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The Future of In-Person Market Research

Posted By Chris Hauck, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Future of In-Person Market Research 

For the first few minutes, I thought the recent QRCA webinarThe Future of In-Person Market Research” was mistitled. I was expecting a panel of futurists talking about whether this old-fashioned approach to research would evolve into some kind of totally invasive biomeasurement product. Plug the respondent in, download the data from their brain and voila! Insights! No moderator needed!

Thankfully, the conversation with four leaders from different focus group facility companies was well thought through and perfectly timed. Prior to the call, I hadn’t even considered going back to a live group in 2020. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be getting on an airplane, picking up my rental car, driving to a hotel, cleaning up, putting on my focus group uniform, walking over to the facility and then spending six hours talking to people in a closed room, sharing stimuli and collecting exercises from them.

It was clear from the conversation that I won’t be doing exactly that in the near future, but I probably won’t be sitting at home wondering when we will return to facilities either. Our four panelists—Laura Livers, Schlesinger Group; Rick Seale, Shugoll Research; Amy Shields, Nichols Research and Brett Watkins; L&E Research, — inspired confidence in their efforts to open their facilities safely.

What does safely mean?

Given that we don’t fully understand this virus and or how it works, the panel gave me considerable confidence that they are on top of cleanliness in the same way that airlines or hotel chains are maintaining separation and keeping everything clean. I left the panel confident that they are doing everything to protect the moderator, the participants, and any clients who may want to join. They have all purchased a variety of products and tools to make this happen (mostly plexiglass dividers and sophisticated steam cleaning systems). And they have put in place detailed and complex procedures to protect our safety.

We will all wear masks outside the room, scheduling will be closely managed to ensure as few people as possible are in common spaces, food will be individually –packed, and stimuli will not be shared by the respondents. Waivers will also be signed by all participants regarding the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 with extensive discussions happening between the facilities and their lawyers. Given the well thought out measures they have all put in place, I feel confident that I’ll be back in the moderator’s seat before the end of the year.

There are limitations

It will be a long time before the moderator will be able to look in the holding pen (my colloquialism for the waiting room) and see the respondents for a multitude of groups all gathered together sharing a sandwich tray waiting for the start of their 6 p.m. group. You won’t see ten people around a table passing around your stimuli anytime soon. One panelist had a great story about a moderator conducting IDIs over Zoom with the respondent in the room. No sharing of the air, but it did give me that impression of some sci-fi film where the good guy is grilled by a computer screen. The plus, less travel. And less exposure to COVID-19.

Schedules and flexibility

The important thing to realize is that each facility is different, so the conditions under which you will do your in-person group will be different in each market. You won’t be able to tell the facility at what time you want to have your groups; they will likely tell you, based on who else they have conducting research on the same day. You won’t tell them that you want ten people around the table; they will likely tell you what your limit must be. And it will be different for each location, so you will have to be flexible to be successful. There might not be any consistency across the markets where you conduct research, which is something you will have to live with. It won’t be negotiable.

Call ahead and discuss your project with the facility during the bidding process. We are so used to getting our way, that we have often simply sent out our specs and taken the estimate. If we argued, it would only be to get a small reduction. Only in cases where the design required some unique situation at the facility would we check to see if they could accommodate. It won’t work like that anymore. You have to talk to them about your needs. You have to be flexible when they can’t meet those needs due to the constraints of their procedures. There won’t be a lot of wiggle room. The stakes are far too high for the facility. Like the rest of the economy, if someone gets sick at the facility, the whole thing will shut down. They can’t afford to shut back down—and neither can the rest of the industry.

Impact on participation and costs

For the most part, the panelists didn’t discuss costs. But the conversation made it pretty obvious that they are eating a lot of these new costs in order to open again. Participation does not seem to be adversely affected, as many of the respondents have time and availability due to being at home. Response rates may change as markets open up after COVID-19; at this point there is no way to know how much.

Conclusion

I was happy to hear that facilities don’t believe in-person qualitative research is our past. And that makes sense; some projects just have to be in-person. When the stimulus can’t get out or when taste testing is involved, it’s going to be in-person. It’s good to know that the facilities are working hard to make groups a reality sooner rather than later. Maryse Hudon from Quebec left the clearest closing comment for this article in the Q&A: “This has been so helpful to identify all the issues involved and the complexity of finding the ideal solution. Thank you so much for a much-needed discussion.”

About the Author: Chris Hauck, HauckEye

For more than 30 years, Chris Hauck has honed his research skills across a wide variety of categories - from telecom and IT to consumer-packaged goods, hospitality, medical products and consulting. Chris has an BBA and MBA from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth TX and currently lives in Longmont Colorado. Chris is currently president of his own company dedicated to experiential research, HauckEye.

 

Tags:  In-person research  market research  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research  remote market research  research methodology 

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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: Keeping Austin Weird - Authentic Insight from Texas Creative

Posted By Laurie Bredenfoerder, BValley Communications, Thursday, March 12, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene:
Keeping Austin Weird - Authentic Insight from Texas Creative

Presenter: Daniel Berkal, The Palmerston Group

 QualPower Blog
Left to right) Professor Ryan Romero; #Texascreative students Rocio Santiago, Esther Shin, Cailyn Wesstrom, Joel Linkewer, Nick Gonzales, and presenter Daniel Berkal

Summary of Conference Session
A unique session at the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference was the “Keeping Austin Weird - Authentic Insight from Texas Creative” panel presentation led by Daniel Berkal.

Art directors and copywriters-to-be enrolled in the #Texas Creative program at UT-Austin share big-picture insights they've gained while completing class assignments. For those QRCs that work in communications, these people will become future clients. But the world has rapidly changed. Different tools are available. The age of creative-test focus groups may be over! The panel focused on questions like “What are the people looking for in their qualitative research?”, “What kinds of methodologies and approaches are most valuable to them?”, and  “What are the needs of the modern creative industry?”

Key Session Takeaways
Personally, I had so many takeaways from this presentation. Gaining this kind of insight was absolutely invaluable to my work. A few highlights from the discussion are:

  • That we, as qualitative professionals, need to "look for the human truth", "use insights to describe how people do things or how things actually function”, and “be out where the people are".
  • To deal with challenges to your creative idea:
    • "I try to think through what the rationale behind the idea is."
    • "There's always water in the well and we need to keep coming back to it."
  • What does the creative process look like for you?
    • "At the beginning, you try to get the 'walls' out of the way. The human truths blow through any personal bias."
    • "Being a great communicator is saying things very simply and clearly."
  • How do you know when a creative idea is good?
    • "People laugh."
    •  "They nod their heads."
    • "Good ideas bring more ideas. Bad ideas stop the conversation."

Aha Moment
Advice from the students' professor, Ryan Romero, on how to accept criticism: "If five people tell you you're drunk, you probably should sit down on the curb."

Final Comments
Try to look out beyond the process and focus on keeping research human. Dan Berkal brought students and QRCA members in a room without giving either group any explanation of what was "supposed to happen" or "why."  It did, and we gained from it. Thanks, Dan and #Texas Creative!"

 

Laurie BredenfoerderQRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Laurie Bredenfoerder, BValley Communications

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative  Qualitative Careers  Texas Creative 

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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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Adapting Your Listening Skills to the Online World

Posted By Ted Kendall, Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Adapting Your Listening Skills to the Online World

By: Ted Kendall

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

As a successful qually, you intuitively know the importance of listening, how to listen well, and how to show participants that you are listening.

Listening is important because it engenders trust, creates rapport, and opens participants up.

In a physical setting, the key things we do to listen, and to show we are listening, include:

  1. Asking questions in response to participant’s thoughts
  2. Using verbal and non-verbal cues to show how you are listening
  3. Letting participants complete their own sentences
  4. Maintaining eye contact
  5. Acknowledging comments in specific ways like boarding or post-it notes

You will have noticed that most involve physicality—you have to be there in real life.

So, how do you listen, and just as importantly, show you are listening, in online qual?

Before we get into this, let me clarify that when I am talking about online qual in this context, I am referring to text-based online qual—primarily bulletin board style. While webcam interviews may be considered online, real life listening skills can be applied to the medium fairly easily.

Set Expectations to Counter Online Research Misperceptions

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

A unique challenge with online qual is that participants don’t necessarily know the difference between a survey and a qualitative discussion, so they often treat the study as if it were a survey. And they often believe that any interactions will be with a chatbot, not a real person.

It’s critical to counter these widely held beliefs and set the appropriate expectations up front. Tell participants you are listening to what they will say. And let them know it’s not a survey—it’s a conversation.

I can sometimes be pretty blunt about this—even going so far as to tell participants that if they just speed through the answers to my questions, they will not get the incentive. And then, when someone does that, I follow through on the promise and call them on it. Often it changes their interactions. Sometimes it doesn’t. But they definitely know you are listening. And, if the discussion is open to the whole group, others will see that you are listening as well.

Depending on the platform, you can use the messaging tools as well as the landing pages to accomplish this. And if the tools aren’t there, just use email or text, even phone, outside of the application.

I also make it a habit to reply to every participant post in the introductions—much like I do in a traditional focus group setting, or for that matter, in a conversation with a stranger. These replies can often reflect common ground, ” I love spending the day in the mountains with my dog too.  What kind of dog do you have?” That’s not a question that will provide rich insights, but it will help open up the participant and really shows you are listening.

It’s critical to establish early in the conversation that you are a living, breathing, listening human being—not some chatbot or AI ghost in the machine. This has a huge impact on how participants approach your conversation.

Avoid AI Tools

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Several online platform providers are touting AI generated responses to participants. All I can say is that this is what we get when we let the programmers drive development. Avoid this feature. Yes, it saves you time during the discussion. But it also removes you from the conversation—you are no longer actively listening. You wouldn’t let a robot take over your focus group session just to save time, would you?

Also, AI is not yet perfect. And it needs to be in this case. It’s not a life or death situation, unless you consider the life or death of the research conversation. Even if the AI gets 90% of the interactions correct, there is that 10% that will suck the air right out of your conversation with that participant. If you are using a group setting, other participants will see the mistake and the negative impact becomes exponential.

So just don’t do it. The potential losses greatly outweigh the potential time savings. Besides, actually responding manually forces you to listen and learn—which is what this is all about. Don’t let a robot take your job.

How to Digitally Use “Non-verbal” Cues and Maintain Eye Contact

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

In the online, text-based world, you certainly can’t maintain eye contact, nor can you provide non-verbal cues to show you are listening. So how do you employ those key principles of listening in an online, text-based world?

Probably the most obvious way is replying to participants’ posts with questions to better understand what they have said or get some clarification on their comment. Yes, I am talking about the same probing questions we lay on participants in focus groups and interviews. These probing questions work just as well online as they do in real life.

To replace those non-verbal cues, I have found it quite effective to comment or ask questions even when there is no need to do so. The idea is that by just saying something, participants recognize that you are there and you are reading what they are posting—you are listening.
Sometimes it is easy to just copy and paste the same general comment to several participants when you do this. If the participants can’t see one another, this is fine and saves you time. But if the participants can see each other, then it just makes you look like a robot.

It’s important when making comments just to show yourself to not require a reply—often this is an option. I like to just thank people for providing quality detail or thank them for an interesting take on the topic. The important thing is to personalize it a bit, to keep it from sounding generic.

Another way to show you are listening is to use the messaging app within the platform to hold meta conversations outside the actual discussion. I make it a point to send reminders at set times as well as thank-yous at the end of the day of discussion.

These messages don’t have to be just logistical in nature. You can also use them to show you are listening. Sometimes I will include a comment about some of the discussion—an insight that came through for the whole group of participants, or sometimes personalizing it to a specific participant.

In the end, listening is important to successful qual, whether you are in the same room as the participant or interacting digitally. It’s just how you listen, and how you show that you are listening, that can take a little adjustment in the digital qual world. But it’s no less important and no less doable.

Author Bio:

Ted KendallTed Kendall is the founder of TripleScoop, a boutique research agency that has a focus on online qualitative. Ted got to this place in his career by being in the right place at the right time to pioneer in early online methods. He was a co-founder of QualTalk that became 20/20 Research’s QualBoards. He learned how to moderate online qual through trial and error and has moderated hundreds of online qual discussions and interviews since that first one in 1997. And he is usually a good listener.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/triplescoopted

Tags:  Listening  Online Listening  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Qualitative Research  Research Methodology 

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Super-qualitative! Using Qual Skills Beyond Market Research

Posted By Foster Winter, Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Super-qualitative! Using Qual Skills Beyond Market Research

By: Foster Winter

Looking Back – A Year of Change in the World of Qualitative

Please be assured, my qualitative colleagues, this subject is not intended to demean the discipline of market research. We love MR. However, over time we found that our qualitative universe was expanding. Now before you delve into astrophysics, we promise to keep our discussion more earthbound.

Whether you are in the early stages of your qualitative career, having mid-career reflections or thinking of winding down your MR-based practice, we’ve found some examples of adjacencies that may serve as thought provoking for you.

The Operating Theatre

One of our colleagues has used her qualitative background to help in a most important aspect of the world of medicine. Many of you will remember Lauren Woodiwiss as an active member of QRCA for many years. As an avocation, Lauren had been involved in community theatre. As she moved into the next phase of her career, Lauren continued to hone her acting skills, becoming a professional actor.

Lauren WoodiwissShe says that one of her most rewarding roles is that of a patient interacting with medical professionals at all levels, from first-year med students to physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel. Nearly all medical schools now employ patient/health care provider role-playing as a valuable communication and physical exam training technique.

Lauren has found that her qualitative skills, such as reading body language coupled with rapid-fire, in-the-moment, relevant, and ad-libbed response allow her to realistically portray the patient and then provide both written and oral feedback to the learner and to the training institution. This feedback can include direction on what helped her — as a patient — to feel cared for and respected, as well as more concrete feedback of multiple aspects of taking a complete history, asking relevant questions and follow-up probes and correctly executing the physical exam.

The feedback questionnaire can have as many at 40 different elements of evaluation. These must be rated based on the “patient’s” memory of the encounter which just took place and, as mentioned, the evaluation encompasses all aspects of communication from the time the learner enters to the time of exit.

A qualitative researcher has the ability to have many thought “balls” in the air at once, such as:

What is the respondent saying?
Does that answer the question I just asked? If not, is it a point I should explore?
Does it fit the client’s objectives for the research?
How am I doing on time?

It is these skills that exquisitely prepare medical professionals for this job.

Working with Underserved Populations

As a recently retired QRC, Barbara Rugen and her husband joined the Peace Corps and were sent for two years to the African country of Namibia.

Barbara Rugen“Never once did I think I would be called upon to use my qualitative background. To my surprise, I found that my skills could make a significant difference there.”

Barbara worked largely with the Nama, who constitute the marginalized communities of the south. The first thing she learned about the Nama was the disillusionment of foreign agencies that had tried to help them: “They just don’t care!” was a common complaint. The second realization was the local prejudice against them, particularly by the white Afrikaaners: “I don’t hire Nama. The Nama are too lazy.”

A small number of Nama were in positions of influence who wanted to uplift their people but were unsure how. Barbara conducted IDIs with the leaders and focus groups with the Nama people. The qualitative sessions explored Nama attitudes and behavior, and the research provided insights to help leaders frame recommendations for Nama capacity building and develop an action plan for the capacity building of these marginalized people.

If you are interested in learning more about this adventure in qualitative, you can hear an interview with Barbara on a VIEWS podcast at https://qrcaviews.org/2019/03/11/spring-podcast-using-qualitative-techniques-within-marginalized-populations/

Business Consulting and Talent Recruiting

My journey into the adjacent qualitative universe began with a small strategy project for a company I call a re-startup. The company had reorganized and was now on a growth path. The task at hand was where to start rebuilding the organization.

Enter strategic qualitative. We began with in-person depth interviews with members of the senior management team. From the knowledge gained, we recommended that the first personnel hole that needed to be plugged was that of a MarCom director. The client agreed, and then said, “find us one.”I looked around to see if they were talking to me. But then, I realized that many organizations, particularly those in startup mode, do not – in fact should not – have their key management people getting into the weeds of going through the hiring process.

We did find our client a suitable candidate for that position — if I do say so — she’s been there for nearly 3 years, and is doing a great job with a five-person department reporting to her. And we learned and developed a process that allows the supervisory/management team to do their primary jobs and still bring in the proper new talent.

Now, I admit my bias – and my client concurs with this view – that a primary reason the process works is that the foundation of the search is based on interviews treated as qualitative investigations. The nuances of the conversations also keep an ear on cues to the candidate’s compatibility with the culture of the organization, a very important aspect to a growing company.

Super-qualitative

While the three examples above illustrate later-career direction shifts, as we noted at the outset, qualitative expertise might offer new trajectories at any point in this rapidly changing research universe. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Author Bio:

Foster WinterFoster Winter is Managing Director of Sigma Research & Management Group. His experience as a business owner and researcher has contributed to his capabilities as a management and organizational consultant. Foster has served on the QRCA Board of Directors, co-chaired the Worldwide Qualitative Conference in Budapest and is the host of the QRCA VIEWS Conversations in Depth podcasts.

Tags:  Consulting  Market Research  QRCA Digest  Qualitative 

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Practical Messiness Masked by the Qualitative and Quantitative Distinction

Posted By Aimée Caffrey , Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Updated: Monday, December 9, 2019

Practical Messiness Masked by the Qualitative and Quantitative Distinction

By: Aimée Caffrey 

This blog post discusses the practical messiness that can be masked by the qualitative/quantitative distinction and offers an approach for thinking about and dealing with that messiness.

Like many anthropologists, I have an abiding interest in the ways in which people construct and reproduce boundaries. During my doctoral work, my primary focus was on boundaries such as ethnicity, caste, and nationality. The professional path I have taken in more recent years has in part shifted my attention toward boundaries of another variety—the boundaries that demarcate scientific knowledge practices in industry, and toward a particular boundary with which the readers of this blog are already quite familiar—that between quantitative and qualitative. In my present role, I conduct and help support research that by most definitions would count as qualitative. At the same time, this work almost always feeds into, or follows on the heels of, research that by most definitions is quantitative. It might entail using IDIs, focus groups, or journaling exercises to better understand terminology or relevant dimensions of experience prior to writing a survey. At the other end of things, it might entail using these data collection formats in an effort to make sense of survey findings—when we have discovered the what but are uncertain of the why.

Working at this intersection instills a perhaps exaggerated awareness of, and sensitivity to, the risks of accepting the quant/qual boundary at face value. Like others of its type, this distinction is a productive shorthand for organizing and talking about a variety of practices; however, it can mask the messiness of reality. A very experienced industry researcher gestured toward this messiness on a recent L&E webinar when he remarked on the "under-powered quant" that can be at work when focus group moderators ask for a show of hands. Alternatively, consider that many of what are generally marketed as mobile ethnography or online qual tools often contain what we otherwise think of as quantitative question types (e.g., multiple choice). To offer another example, I regularly assist fellow researchers with the development of interview and focus group discussion guides, and often this assistance centers in part on rephrasing "how much" (i.e., quantitative) kinds of questions to help us make sure we are in fact collecting qualitative data.

These examples of the messiness relate to a tension between the method deployed and the data gathered. When we think of the boundary between qualitative and quantitative as pertaining to a (reporting) distinction between numbers and words, the lines are similarly blurred—we discover the use of stories and images to help explain the findings of quantitative analysis and the use of quantitative adjectives to convey insights from qualitative analysis. This isn't terribly surprising: If there is "terror in numbers," as Darrell Huff wrote in How to Lie with Statistics, the tensions and nuances at the very human heart of qualitative data can also induce discomfort. But, just as the pictures (e.g., graphs) we draw to quell the disquietude of quant can exaggerate the story that the numbers tell, so too can the words we use to describe our qualitative findings be misleading. What is more important than policing the qualitative/quantitative boundary? It is being watchful for what the messiness around that boundary might signal—that there is a misalignment somewhere among the objectives in mind, the method deployed, the data gathered, and ultimately, the claims that are made.

There may be justifiable and even good reasons to ask for a show of hands in a focus group—for example, as a quick "pulse check", or to help warm up participants at the start of the discussion. But whether we think of our work as quant or qual—and whether we are thinking of our questions, our methods, or our claims in making that determination—let's be deliberate and mindful about the implications of actively inviting that messiness into the picture.

Author Bio:

aimee caffreyAimée Caffrey is a cultural anthropologist and UX researcher. Since 2017, she has worked in the Advanced Analytics Group at Bain & Company, where she collaborates with consultants, developers, designers, and fellow researchers to help clients solve some of today’s most exciting business challenges. If you wish to get in touch, please email her at Aimee.Caffrey@Bain.com.

Tags:  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research  quantitative 

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Using Mental Models to Enhance Our Qualitative Research Skills

Posted By Mark Wheeler, Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Untitled Document

Mental Models
Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

A book published earlier this year provides a nice toolkit for qualitative researchers and consultants looking for new ways to bring additional value to our work. Super Thinking, by authors Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann, introduces and explains a large number of mental models that can be applied as tools to help us do our research and communicate our findings and recommendations with more depth and impact.

Mental Models
A mental model is essentially a recurring concept that can be used to help understand, explain, and predict things. They are used as shortcuts to higher-level thinking. Most mental models have solid supporting evidence behind them but are not extremely well-known or formally taught to everyone in school.

Because most mental models are intuitive, they can be quickly explained to others, and used to recognize and describe patterns in behavior. They are highly valuable in qualitative research because we continually observe and hear things that need to be communicated to our clients – sometimes in ways that help to give a higher level of explanation than we have heard. It is much easier for us to recognize and explain something if we have a solid label for what is going on.

There are literally hundreds of mental models in the book. They come from a wide and varied number of fields of study, including philosophy, investing, statistics, physics and physical science, and economics. A list of several mental models is included in the accompanying table. 

Applying Models in Research
In a recent marketing research project, I found a way to make use of one of Weisberg’s and McCann’s mental models to help communicate a key point to clients during a long day of in-person research. (Note:  there will be a lot of detail blinding in this example to ensure confidentiality.) The research was in support of a safer kind of post-surgical wound care that had been on the market for a few years. Some of the doctors in research claimed that they hadn’t noticed fewer post-surgical complications since switching to the safer alternative, and some thought they may have seen even more complications. This was causing (and I am being understated here) some confusion and concern in the back room. Fortunately, the situation brought to mind the mental model of a moral hazard. Put simply, people take on more risk when they have information (in this case, the knowledge about the new wound-care therapy) that encourages them to believe that they are being protected.

Mental Models

Discussion with clients about moral hazard helped us to put a label on what we were hearing and helped us understand and probe differently in later interviews. Even more important, we were ultimately able to use the learnings to generate new messaging about the wound care product to address the potential problem of moral hazard for both physicians and patients.

A lot of the useful mental models in the book come from the social and behavioral sciences. The concept of availability bias describes the fact that once we make an answer (or behavior) available in someone’s mind by drawing attention to it, the answer begins to seem more correct. It is an automatic effect and is nearly impossible to resist. Of course, we usually want to avoid availability bias when we moderate (i.e., no leading questions).

I often discuss this idea of availability bias with clients when writing guides or surveys, and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive – even when it leads to re-writing someone else’s question. Availability bias comes up in other situations, for example when composing messages for promotion. In these cases, the bias can become a bit more acceptable (e.g., “Doctor, tell me about how satisfied your patients have been after you have prescribed our drug?”).

The larger point behind these examples is that introducing clients to mental models such as moral hazard and availability bias helps to communicate relatively complex points in a simple way that wouldn’t be possible without using the terms. When discussing a particular mental model such as loss aversion before research, clients and other listeners then begin to recognize it when they hear it from respondents. It is also fair to think of mental models as “value-adds” for any moderators or consultants who are able to bring in new concepts to help their client achieve their objectives. I’ve found that introducing mental models relatively early in reports can help prepare clients for critical upcoming findings and conclusions.

It is well worth while to check out Super Thinking and discover which mental models can be most valuable to your business.

Mark WheelerMark A. Wheeler, PhD, is a qualitative researcher and consultant who applies his background in cognitive and behavioral science to help his clients achieve their goals.  He is Principal of Wheeler Research LLC in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Tags:  mark wheeler  mental models  moral hazard  qrca  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research  super thinking 

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Qual or Quant? Choosing the best method for your research study

Posted By Jennifer Dale, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Qual or Quant? Choosing the best method for your research study

Quantitative and qualitative research are both scientific methods for data collection and analysis. They can be applied alone, or in combination, to maximize insights.

The Basic Difference: Going Beyond What vs. Why

QUANT

Quantitative research relies on large sample sizes to collect numerical data that can be mathematically analyzed for statistically significantfindings. Surveys are structured, questions are typically closed-ended, and answer choices are fixed. However, quantitative research may also include a limited number of short-answer open-ended questions to help clarify why people responded the way they did to a closed-ended question. Eye tracking, facial coding, and even Big Data fall under the umbrella of quantitative research, with computers analyzing enormous volumes of data incredibly fast.

Quantitative studies produce numerical data, which allows for statistical analysis and ultimately precise findings. The US Census is a great example of a quantitative research study – fixed and close-ended questions, an enormous sample size, a collective review of many respondents, and measured population segments.

QUAL

In contrast, qualitative research seeks to understand the reasons behind the numbers, as well as what is not yet known. Sample sizes are smaller, questions are unstructured, and results more subjective. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative studies insert the researcher into the data collection process. The researcher probes responses and participants provide more detail. Qualitative data is collected through interviews, group discussions, diaries, personal observations, and a variety of other creative and ever-expanding means.

Qual studies work with textual and visual data, interpreted and analyzed for directional findings. Qualitative research studies include fluid and open-ended questions, a smaller sample size, an in-depth review of each respondent, and emerging themes.

 

I like to think of the difference visually, where a quant study collects specific data from a large number of people, and a qual study goes deeper to collect greater insights from a small number of people.

How to Choose

The answer to whether you proceed with quantitative or qualitative research lies in your research objective and available resources.

  • Why you’re doing the research
  • What you need to know
  • Your budget, staff, + schedule
  • How the findings will be used

Consider these possible scenarios the next time you’re stuck and don’t know which way to go:

Quant + qual can come together in other ways. A questionnaire with open-ended questions, while ultimately coded numerically, can offer a window into the unknown. Focus groups that also include poll questions or surveys can produce hard data when analyzed in total, even if the results are not statistically significant.

With good planning, quantitative and qualitative research come together like a dance, guiding the marketer’s success with every step.

I Say Hybrid, You Say Multimethod

Combining quantitative and qualitative research approaches is an ancient strategy, but the names continue to change with the times. I did a bit of research and found the following terms being used to describe that ideal combination of quantitative and qualitative research. What term do you use? And why? ;)

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Dale, President + CEO Inside Heads, is a seasoned marketing professional and pioneer in online market research. Her passion for marketing, human behavior, and technology keep InsideHeads on the short list of research providers for some of the world’s most discriminating clients. Jennifer is co-author of Qual-Online, The Essential Guide and has published a number of articles in VIEWS, Alert! and Quirk’s Marketing Research Review.

 

Tags:  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research  quantitative  research methodologies  research methodology 

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