I am loving the theme of the upcoming QRCA Conference: Elevate and Cultivate. The promise of a consortium of professionals – each representing different phases and ways in to their qualitative research careers – eager to share their varied experiences and knowledge. It immediately brought to mind imagery of sophistication and refinement, enlightenment and growth, artistry and execution, all grounded in hard work, solid skills development, and a willingness to get one’s hands dirty.
It immediately made me think: steampunk.
Steampunk is an aesthetic portrayal of retro-yet-futuristic stories, fashion, and ideas. A “subgenre of speculative fiction...It could be described by the definition: What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner” (urbandictionary.com).
Movie still from original Blade Runner
What would the past look like if it were happening now? What would the present look like if it were in the future? What does any of this have to do with qualitative research?
Pretty much everything.
Qualitative market research is also a sub-culture within a sub-culture. It boasts its own language, its own unique sets of tools and techniques, its own artisans and inventors. Qualitative researchers access the past and join it with the present as a means to craft a variety of possible futures. And we do it with our own flair and personal style.
Movie still from Hugo
And if we are to be the leaders of our industry and for our clients, then we definitely need to make sure that we are getting our education from all different directions and decades. Our more tenured researchers have seen and done it (almost) all – they planted the seeds of what we do so that we can benefit from their fruits. We must learn from them. Millennials look at society and seek to humanize our automated methods. We must learn from them. Our younger professionals are masters of life at our fingertips and simplifying what used to be convoluted and complex. We must learn from them.
This is why I am so excited to attend the QRCA Annual Conference. These three days in Phoenix, AZ, have been artfully designed so that anyone who still has something to learn about qualitative research (namely, all of us) will have the opportunity to benefit from what happens when qualitative vets engage with qualitative next. All to elevate and cultivate us into the gritty elegance of qualitative now.