Let’s rewind to the early 90s. A Qualitative researcher would pack his/her bags for their field trip. In the bag: Kodak disposable camera, cassette tape recorder and paper to take field notes, observation protocols and interview guides. After the field trip, back in the office the researcher did his/her analysis on hand written analysis grids using hand written field notes and then painstakingly prepared a presentation on acetates/slides. At the end, the client got a type written report.
Back to 2014, a Qualitative researcher’s world of work objects has exploded. There is the digital audio recorder, mobile phone, digital camera, laptop/computer, maybe even a tablet, video camera, note books, all kinds of analysis software, video editing software etc.
This accumulation of objects is across the different stages of the project from conceptualization to discovery to analysis and finally to sharing insights. For the purpose of this blog we are focussing on the final stage of a project i.e. sharing insights with clients as it raises interesting questions about how we view insights, trade them with clients and eventually the kind of relationships we have with clients.
The artifacts: In those final stages of insight delivery and planning we now have video clippings, inspiration cards, flip charts, post its, visualizations, story boards, future scenario cards and of course presentation documents to name just a few. They are getting complex and involving our different senses beyond just sound and sight. The processes surrounding these artifacts are now the collaborative ways of working i.e. client workshops, co creation sessions.
Values: communication and storytelling as a way of gaining insight, insight as a currency for exchange, the belief that involvement in insight creation is the first step to action, research value creation is in the process and experience that client’s go through not just in the analysis provided in the form of a research report
Creator and consumer: for researchers the creation and use of artifacts is about not just being the developer and communicator of insights but also to be an enabler of experiences for client organisations and employees. This comes with a re definition of ‘expertise’ and a different kind of power sharing between researcher and client. It is an interesting shift in Asian organizations where clean cut hierarchies and ownership of knowledge and expertise predominate.
The march of artifacts comes with the change of the qualitative work culture and work processes. We would love to hear about some of your qualitative work artifacts and the additional understanding of the changing nature of Qualitative research reporting.