October 13th, 2008
Background for this post consists of 18 years working with tens of clients and doing hundreds of qualitative interviews. There are links below that will deepen readers’ understanding of qualitative research. Additionally, many pages in this site place qualitative research in its proper context within the innovation process.
Anyone can moderate a qualitative research discussion.
When I sense that someone is entertaining this notion, a scene from “A Fish Called Wanda” flashes on the anterior wall of my cranium…
Kevin Kline: “Apes don’t read philosophy.”
Jamie Lee Curtis: “Yes, they do Otto, they just don’t understand it.”
An ape can lead a focus group. It’s just a conversation. An ape can ask questions and get answers. And, that’s how high the bar is for some people who have seen focus groups and, thus, think they can lead them.
Each year, hundreds of focus groups and in-depth interviews are moderated by…we’ll call them dilettantes to be more polite.
But, they don’t know they’re dilettantes. After all, they didn’t have to avoid losing a legal arguments or a patient. They only thing they had to avoid was inducing stoney silence among their research subjects.
A focus group costs $55 per minute. That includes facility rental, recruiting participants, moderation, analysis, report writing and M&Ms for everyone in the observation room. But, the cost of poorly conducted interviews pale in comparison to opportunity costs of lost wisdom and business opportunities, which typically amount to millions over several years.
Yes, dilettantes will continue to ask, “What would make you buy?”, of their research subjects and they’ll continue to get answers. But, for so many reasons that we don’t have time to address here, they’ll be useless and misleading answers.
So, the next time you hear someone suggest that they’ll do qualitative research interviews themselves, suggest that they take this not-so-tongue-in-cheek, “Qualitative Research Dilettante Self-Test”:
- Name five characteristics that differentiate a run-of-the-mill qualitative researcher from a great one. (Read more here.)
- If that’s too hard, name five qualitative research techniques that you should be able to deploy instantly as a research discussion unfolds. (Read more here.)
If they flunk the test and still insist on moderating, you’ve done all you can. They’re headed recklessly toward the fruit aisle…to the bananas I think.
Whyze Group moderates qualitative research interviews that derive strategic, business-building wisdom from participants and imparts it to managers.
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