Research Reimagined

From the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan

In their book, Life Reimagined, Richard Leider and Alan Webber write about how to deal with change – change that may be foisted upon us or change that we choose. The book’s particular focus is on one’s second half of life.  However, we all are faced with challenges at various ages that may cause us to rethink our approach to living, adapt to a new normal, and enter a different phase of our life. They suggest that we accomplish this through choice, curiosity and courage.

As I reflect back on my 20+ years in the market research industry, I see how this holds true for qualitative research – the need to be open to changes and trying new approaches. For many years, it seemed that there was little that was new in qualitative research. We conducted traditional focus groups and IDIs, and then the introduction of the Internet became a major game changer.

Choice – As researchers, we always have choices even though changes that occur in our industry may not be of our choosing, and are driven by shifts in technology and lifestyles. We can choose to explore new techniques, platforms and methods, and determine their value and application; and in some cases, after consideration and trial, we may decide that a method or approach is not one that is effective or has value. Of course, we can also choose to ignore changes with the potential risk of being left behind and out of touch with our clients and our respondents, i.e., how could we not conduct online and mobile research – the world in which our audiences communicate?

Curiosity – By nature, market researchers are curious. We’ve got that going for us! We are accustomed to looking at products, services and processes from different perspectives. So too it behooves us to be open and curious about new technologies, approaches and methods and explore how we could apply them. Think wearables (e.g., Google glasses), facial coding, etc.

Courage – It takes some courage to stretch, and step away from the tried and true, and try something that potentially may not be successful or may have some bumps and glitches before it works. I have to admit these changes have not come without some angst for me. I am not by nature an early adopter though my company, Doyle Research, is. I have to admit that once I’ve been nudged into trying something new, I have been excited about the possibilities it offers and the results it brings. I love that we can reach new audiences with online and mobile research, and come closer to seeing and understanding consumers’ authentic behaviors and experiences within the context of natural settings (e.g., in-home, at stores, etc.).

As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” I’m grateful that I work with a team of smart, progressive researchers who encourage and support me in embracing change. It has made me a better researcher and keeps me stimulated even after all these years in qualitative research.