I had the chance to attend Susan Cain‘s keynote last Wednesday at The ARF’s Re:Think 2014 event. I really wanted to attend this presentation as soon as I saw it in the program. Why? Mainly because Susan Cain got almost 8 million views for her TED talk, but also because I am an introvert myself and thought I might get some useful tips.
With introverts making up roughly a third to a half of the population, Susan reflects on how we came to living in a world that favors extroverted activity such as group work in schools and offices. She says we weren’t always this way, but when big business started booming in the 20th century, a shift occurred and historians started calling this the Culture of Personality.
Overall, she shared some great observations about introverts, like how they are relatively quiet during meetings because they need time before coming up with an idea they want to share aloud. I definitely agree with Susan that “solitude is a crucial ingredient, often, to creativity,” however, it doesn’t mean that we should stop collaborating all together. And, even though most of her talk focused on employees in the workplace, it got me thinking about the ways in which the market research industry has dealt with co-creation. Focus groups are definitely better suited towards extroverts, but what about the other half of the population? Introverts need time to process information before they share and if we’re really trying to get the most out of everyone, I would think that the best way to foster collaboration is to do so in an online forum because they are asynchronous. Susan notes that some studies have shown that, “individuals who brainstorm by themselves produce more ideas and better ideas than groups,” and this introvert definitely agrees!
If you haven’t seen her TED talk, I strongly recommend you watch it below.
I recently found out that the married couple in the original 1950 movie, Cheaper By The Dozen was the same couple who developed some of the earliest Time and Motion Studies. With a combination of observation and creativity, Frank & Lillian Gilbreth introduced a non-stooping scaffold that allowed masons to drastically improve their productivity in their bricklaying work. See for yourself.
This got me thinking about parallels in the market research industry and the role imagery plays in online surveying. By using image-based tools and techniques, we can likewise improve respondents’ “productivity”, giving them aids to better communicate emotions and associations that are difficult to express with words alone. Through images, they can “lift” ideas too heavy for text responses. We then have this imagery available to help the researcher communicate findings and insights to their audience.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in market research — implementation of social media platforms such as Pinterest to conduct qualitative research online. It’s been highlighted in this Quirks article, but I’ve also come across this topic in other online MR conversations. I see how this seems easy, useful, and innovative to some, but I worry that it’s a bit shortsighted.
While I wholeheartedly agree that researchers need to reach and interact with respondents in ways applicable to what they do online and also find the use of imagery in research powerful I see issues with just turning to a social media platform as a research tool. For one, this type of integration between a social media platform and research is time consuming and only seems to work on a few people at a time. The researcher needs to train each respondent on the platform so they are correctly pinning images. Also, the respondent then needs to go out and find each image which can potentially result in them not thinking broadly enough about the topic or even becoming distracted from the task. Many Pinners know how tempting it can be to continue clicking through links! But even more importantly, this does not allow us to engage a higher number of respondents, apply certain analytics or control for bias.
Using technologies not intended for research purposes tends to leave a lot of opportunity on the table. I think research should invest more in developing its own technologies keeping methodologies and best practices in mind.