Last week I was in the audience of an online market research seminar when the subject of the ‘one-on-one interview’ came up, with the presenter extolling the virtues of “good old conversational probing”. I couldn’t agree more. At the end, someone else in the audience posted the question “what qualifications or training do you need in order to be a good interviewer?” To which the presenter replied “a psychology degree, or social sciences…” I couldn’t agree less. It got me thinking about why and how working as an ethnographer has shaped my interview technique.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how ethnography is much more than the application of a few techniques and models but is, at best, a whole different perspective and approach. The article struck something of a chord amongst trained ethnographers, many of whom seemed to share my dismay at the dumbing down of ethnography and the appropriation of its good name by barely skilled practitioners. Here I me to share a case study which exemplified how ethnography is more than just in-home interviews and ‘hanging out’ with customers and what material insights were gained by taking a less superficial approach.
Segmentation is a crucial tool that many major marketers use to help target products, services and communications and build understanding of customers. Segment personas derived from these segmentations are meant to provide a ‘snapshot’ of that customer type. In reality, these often don’t work all that successfully to really bring those segments to life.
The qualitative focus group remains a stalwart fixture of qualitative research. Despite many predictions of its impending demise because of online research, in-home-interviews, big data, etc., the focus group is alive and well.
User-centred design and human centred-design, which are so much in vogue, have championed the use of ethnography. Now management consultancies are embracing ethnography, with some hiring ethnographers and others writing booklets and papers that laud its benefits.
Co-design is much in vogue worldwide in product, service and environment design. Its a strategy for innovation. The power of the crowd has long been recognised, and engaging end-users in any design process seems like a no-brainer if you want to design it according to their needs.
There’s a lot of buzz around AI and big data at the moment. Particularly about how AI is already, or is soon going to become smarter and better than humans. One recent commentary on this theme that I really liked suggested that while AI is super smart it is not smart in a human way
'The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts' - John Locke
Discovering people’s truth in the complex consumer process is no easy task. Much of what people do is habitual and unconscious, so just relying on what consumers report, limits the possibilities.