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This month I’m focusing on the doing part of qualitative research: methodologies – with two simple suggestions that I believe deliver clients better insight for their business.
First: ‘Being there’
I explore the ways to bring research to people, rather than people to research.

Second: ‘Phone ahead’
A few examples of why it pays to phone ahead in research.
Being there
You might like to read Martin Lindstromm’s book Small Data: the tiny clues that uncover huge trends. He recounts seven stories that describe his ‘small data’ process and argues that real insight comes from visiting people looking at their world with outsiders eyes to notice the small things that give us clues to their psyche, their unmet needs, and ultimately the solution to his clients’ business problem.
For Lego he spent time with a boy who loved his Lego as well as his skateboard. When the boy showed Martin his most prized possession – a pair of very scuffed trainers – Martin had an ‘aha’ moment about how Lego could win in a world dominated by ‘screen time’. Lego needed to focus on the achievement we get from putting the time in to gain mastery over something. Cue Lego turnaround…
I can’t make such big claims in the research I do at Qual Street, but I certainly do believe in being there. Here’s how in three very recent projects…
1. Down the pub. 
If you’re developing a concept that’s going to be consumed in the pub, then running groups there makes sense. As well as  running a kick-starter co creation workshop I ran 8 friendship groups in the pub (with the help of streetmate Vicki Raynor). 

Jill Farrell from FindFieldwork solutions found us four landlords willing to host sessions in their boozers, so as well as chatting to friends (mostly in their actual local) we interviewed landlords as well.

We really did get a different, richer level of insight for our client about how it felt to consume their product in such a social setting…
2. On the run

Again with Vicki. We wanted to understand visually impaired people’s experience of parkrun for a piece of pro bono work we did for parkrun.

First off, we decided to co design the methodology for the project by asking VI volunteers the best way for us to do the research with them. They suggested do a parkrun – so we did. (Four actually). Along the way we made more contacts for our research and extended out our respondent reach. Plus, I’ve started parkrunning! (If you don’t know what parkrun is, it’s a 5k run around a local park that happens every Saturday 9am. It’s totally free and you get your run timed so you can try to improve your speed if that’s your thing…)
3. A friends and family perspective.
After doing a detailed on-line study with 24 households (shared with streetmate Dawn Lambert) on healthy eating, I cherry-picked 6 very different respondents and invited them to host a friends and family group – at their place. The idea was to see how their social life affected their views and eating habits. 

The group dynamic was so much richer than an ordinary group...! Definitely a method to repeat.
Phone Ahead
Another common tactic I use in many studies these days is to combine quick phone interviews with longer detailed sessions.

For customer closeness sessions I phone ahead (or ask my trusted friend and recruiter Sophie to…). 
 The idea is:
  1. To check them out for suitability for a customer closeness session
  2. To let them to know what to expect from the session (in this case that they’ll be photographed, filmed and interviewed by a senior exec from my clients’ business)
  3. To get them excited about the process
I promise you the extra investment in time means the sessions for my client are a real success!
I also like to use the phone for toe-dip interviews that allow me to select the best of the crop for more detailed in-home interviews. By doing lots of generalist interviews and then a few really deep dives you can achieve the best possible insight. A mix of phoning ahead and being there!
To husband Dave for finding this great read: The Book of Human Emotions – you’ll love it!  Now I know that Martin Lindstromm enjoys the emotion: ‘Depaysement’ when he interviews people from other cultures.

Honestly read on – you’ll find out you have emotions you didn’t know you had!