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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Long Live Great Thinking!

In between doing car groups in Norwood and (a bit more glamorously, perhaps) listening to girls in Shanghai talking about fashion, I was asked to speak at the APG Battle of Big Thinking Day last Thursday. I was in the Big Research Thinking heat.

Anyway, the daunting title almost led me to try and build some edifice around the controversial or wacky – you know how the industry is obsessed with “techniques” and “technology”!

But at the eleventh hour I realised this is one of the big problems.

All too often people are seduced by ‘novelty’ (‘we want a new technique’) almost for its own sake without really considering its absolute relevance.

But let’s face it, it’s Great Thinking that should be paramount in Qualitative Research (that’s the ‘Big Think’ thought) and techniques are more often ‘means’ not absolute ends!

I’ve quoted a couple of real anonymous examples from the Black Museum – projects on condoms and incontinence pads (it was two different projects – not one!) in each case a ludicrous ‘technique’ chosen purely because it was “different”!

Don’t get me wrong - here in our Thinktank Immersion suite we’re all for pushing the envelope and doing new stuff but only when we think it will take us further. We use things like mob-blogs, e-panels, ‘Live’ Encounters, Brand Buddies, Mix-Up Groups and so on – but these approaches have to be RIGHT AND RELEVANT within the context of each project!

Sadly we all get caught up in a ‘Novelty Arms Race’ and poor old Group sessions (actually a great THINKING forum in need of a new brand name!) can be the casualty.

I say don’t ‘throw the baby out’ – groups can be great resource for working on problems and issues – there’s so much you can do to turbo charge them too – before, during and after.

At the end of the day I feel strongly that Qual Research should be about GREAT THINKING – because that’s what it is – a Thinking ‘Craft’ and we should use and abuse whatever methods or techniques will enable and stimulate that.