We recently completed a regional Qualitative research study on skin care in South East Asia. The final review got us talking about the variables that led to the project being an inspiring experience that changed the team’s perspective on some fundamental aspects about market and the consumer. There are many different tools that were used throughout the project to ensure success (perhaps material for a later blog entry), but in this entry we want to highlight some of the necessary attitudes/mind sets underpinning the outcome of the project. Used to be, that fact driven decision making predominated the corporate world. It worked well because the world was complicated but still mostly explainable through causal relationships. Qualitative research too followed the “recipe approach” (best practices and established expertise). However, times have changed, we live in a complex world and often there is no linear relationship between things. This has shifted the role of Qualitative research from being diagnostic or even exploratory to providing inspiration and foresight to brands/clients. This requires Qualitative researchers to adopt a different mind set.
- Ask questions you do not know an answer to (this is the starting point for innovation)
- In the new world, we need to re-examine the way we think about problems a brand/client is confronting. It is easy to lapse into classifying a problem in familiar ways like a positioning study. What is more important is to really step back, review existing information and then begin to outline what the problem really is about. It requires a different kind of conversation with the client and the ability to frame the research question in a more defined and inspiring way. Way too often we receive and allow flat, narrow questions to be asked; questions that do not open the field of investigation and are questions we may even know the answer to
- The curator’s mind set
- Existing data sources i.e. the primary research itself as well as information from the client’s archives has always been the focus of research analysis. In today’s world information is widely available. It is important to be able to go beyond these sources and expand the sources to include social media, other kinds of ‘experts’ like bloggers etc.
- That requires a Qualitative researcher to learn to connect the dots across diverse sources and recognize patterns while still keeping the context of discovery in mind. In a way that moves a Qualitative researcher from merely relying on data/facts but to bring in a layer of intuition and expertise that is their own to filter and give a distinctive voice to the information gathered
- Think of possibilities, what doesn’t exist, extrapolate
- When Qualitative research takes on the role of inspiring clients and brands, not just informing them; it is important to be able to ignite passions. Imagine the possibilities and bringing these to live for the client/brand is critical. Intimacy with consumer and their lives is one way to achieve this
- Balance contemplation with collaboration expertise
- Qualitative researchers have always been good at analysing by reflecting on what they hear or do not hear, what they see. Today, besides solitary analysis, working in a collaborative way with clients and consumers both is important. The ability to build consensus across diverse objectives and view points, bring together different cultures and self awareness are all important aspects of this
- Finally, Learn to live with ambiguity
- In today’s complex world where change is on going and unpredictable the Qualitative researcher too needs to learn to be flexible, change course as the project moves along and to remain productive even amid ambiguity
“Learning never exhausts the mind” Leonardo da Vinci