How to use Agile Methods with In-Person Qualitative Research

Filed Under: Agile Research, Focus Groups, Qualitative Research


In hopes of learning more about some of the emerging trends in qualitative research, Kat Figatner, Senior VP, and I attended the Qual360 conference in Washington D.C.  A common theme at the conference was “agile research.” This is a theme that has become all too familiar at C+R as our clients find themselves under increased pressure to deliver insights for their internal teams at a faster rate, and in turn, we’ve responded to this need by staying ahead of the game with agile solutions. In fact, our very own Shaili Bhatt, Senior Research Director, was recently a guest presenter for one of our technology partners, Digsite, where she presented a webinar on this very topic of agile research.

During the conference, one of the panels discussed online communities as a solution to deliver quick insights (another core competency at C+R – for an overview, click to see our latest webinar

on this subject).  Communities can certainly address this need.  Yet, even though we’re seeing a surge in agile qualitative with online research, we believe that in-person qualitative will survive, and actually thrive in this new environment. One speaker made that clear at the conference with this fun fact: only 7% of a message is conveyed by words – the rest is communicated by tonality and body language. This speaks to the power of in-person qualitative and observation. We’re finding ways to incorporate agile qualitative methods into our discussion groups to get this deeper level of understanding, while still giving clients the quick-hitting insights they need and are requesting.

Sharing an example of how we’ve done this might help paint a clear picture. When a client wished to evaluate many concepts (more than is usually achievable in a group setting) and needed a quick turnaround, we saw an opportunity to adapt our approach.  The goal was to conduct an interactive discussion for participants, and provide a fresh way for clients to evaluate concept feedback through the use of online surveys.  – (participants provided their responses in between group discussions).  This allowed the moderator and backroom to view the groups’ aggregate ratings/rankings for each concept.

The advantages of this sort of approach for clients is the ability to see collective feedback on concept “scores,” individual open-ends, as well as live discussion where they observe visceral reactions. Participants are anchored to their opinions which enables the team to probe emerging themes, resulting in richer discussion.  We achieved a stronger understanding of the “whys” behind the appeal of the concepts, the achievement of testing a large number of concepts (10-12), and the opportunity for the backroom debrief to produce a higher level of detail for discussion, yielding a clearer understanding of the path forward.  And, results were delivered in half the time, allowing the team to move quickly through optimizations and onto the next round of research.

It’s these types of solutions that make me proud of the way we at C+R continue to evolve and improve our methods to adapt to the speed required in qualitative research.   In our quest to offer even more innovative solutions to help our clients, I look forward to seeing what we will come up with next!

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