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

Posted By Farnaz Badie, Thursday, June 25, 2020

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

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

Summary of Conference Session

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

Key Session Takeaways

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

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

Step 1 – collect stories

Step 2 – process stories

Step 3 – look for patterns among the stories

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

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

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

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

Aha Moment

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

Final Comments

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

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

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

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“Selling” the Added Value of Qualitative UX Research

Posted By Mary Sorber , Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Selling" the Added Value of Qualitative UX Research

Quallies who want to expand their practice into UX research need to be aware of the different types of UX research and the various terminology used in UX field. Practicing UX researchers (UXRs), especially those not lucky enough to work within a company with a well-established UX research practice, should be adept at discussing how qualitative research adds value. This article is written for anyone who need to “sell” the benefits of UX research, whether to generate new business or convince internal colleagues.

How Qualitative UX Research Adds Value
As independent consultants, you probably already have a sales pitch in your back pocket describing the value of qualitative insights to the marketing organization. In UX research, you’ll be working most closely with product management and engineering. Talking to this different set of stakeholders means tweaking the terminology and emphasis. In working with product teams, the language that resonates is that of “bringing the outside-in perspective, mitigation of risk, and efficient use of valuable engineering resources.”

Three Categories of UX Research
UX research falls into 3 broad categories: exploratory, conceptual, and evaluative. Each contributes differently to the product and mitigates different risks. Exploratory — or generative — UX research (field visits, ethnography) addresses product-market fit and reduces the risk of building the wrong product for the wrong people. Conceptual UXR (iterative design research, usually with prototypes) reduces the risk of building the product in the wrong way and minimizes internal bias. Evaluative UXR (primarily usability) confirms user goals are met and reduces user adoption risk.

types of ux research and their contributions

Disruptive vs. Incremental Research
It’s a mistake to think of UX research as synonymous with usability testing. UX research encompasses much more, and significant contributions come from other methods. Usability testing — as an evaluative method — can contribute only incremental improvements to the product. The engineering team is a fast-moving train on tracks that have already been laid. Usability testing may be able to paint the coach a new color, but it’s too late to route the tracks to a different destination. Disruptive innovation and product-market fit come from doing exploratory research in advance of the engineering effort.

‘Outside-In’ Perspective
Working as a UXR, your role will be to bring in the outside perspective, helping to develop and maintain focus on the user problem and delivering value to the user. This is sometimes a large effort in the face of pervasive and — at times — strongly held opinions about the perceived problem or the imagined value of a visionary solution. Developing a strong partnership with entrepreneurs and product leaders is key to grounding the vision and shaping it into something that will be successful in the world of the eventual users.

Being adept at explaining the different types of UX research and how they can add value to the product team will help you sell your UX services. And in terms of impact, focus first on exploratory methods, then conceptual methods. Usability testing may be a good way to get in the door, but only as a last resort as your impact on the project will be severely constrained.

Author Bio:

mary sorber
Mary Sorber is Founder and Principal Researcher at Practical Insights, a boutique qualitative research company engineered to ask the right questions to get answers and insights that are a springboard for innovation and improved user experience. We are happy to partner with quallies looking to break into the UX field.

Tags:  conceptual research  evaluative research  exploratory research  QRCA Digest  qualitative ux research  selling value  types of research 

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