When do you do your best work? For most of us, it’s in situations where we’re comfortable, like hanging out at our favorite Starbucks. Situations where we’re familiar with the systems and processes. Projects where we’re working in a familiar computer program, whether that’s Google apps, a shared drive, or our own laptop. We’re not trying to figure out new things. We can get into a flow where we’re not thinking about the mechanics of doing the work, but instead can simply focus on doing what we need to do.
In research with consumers, sometimes we expect study participants to do some things that feel uncomfortable to them. We want participants to show up at a facility and get real honest with a bunch of strangers. We expect participants to download an unfamiliar app and record their experiences.
There are times when we can’t avoid the awkwardness. But, it’s worth asking, “how can we learn from participants in ways they are most comfortable and can give us their best?” It can be easy to get caught up designing solutions that work best for the client team, what works best for us, or anything besides the research participant.
We’re not just talking about putting couches in focus group rooms and calling it a day. We’re talking about honestly asking, “in what context would this participant most be enabled to robustly answer in?” Then, don’t over-engineer it.
This thinking has led us to conducting interviews over Skype, FaceTime or other publicly available platforms – and letting the participant pick which is most comfortable for her. It has led us to conducting email interviews, a platform that participants are used to spending lots of time on and are very adept at uploading photos or other stimuli to. This thinking has also led us to putting our ears to the internet ground and listening to what people are already saying online via social media.
And we can’t forget to mention this side-benefits: it’s often a much better value to do this over using a paid research platform as well as an increasingly relevant way of connecting with emerging consumer segments.
There are still times when we arrive at a paid research platform or doing face-to-face work. Some research platforms give participants tools that help them to express themselves in ways they could not via email, video or social media. Sometimes being face-to-face is necessary. When possible, we stick to methods that allow participants to engage through the media they’re used to from the comfort of their homes, letting them spend their full thought-space on expressing themselves.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Allen Skyy
The Garage Group enables corporate teams to innovate like startups with smart & scrappy research, and an entrepreneurial approach to ideation.