Passion: The Job To Be Done

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Passion: The Job To Be Done

Jobs to Be Done

One of my clients first introduced me to Jobs To Be Done theory, and since then, we have used it as one of the tools to help uncover consumer needs states in certain situations, in order to better understand “white space gaps and opportunities.” 

What I appreciate about this theory is that it starts from a place of “need or desire” rather than a place of “what’s missing” or lack? Many traditional methods for understanding wants and needs is looks at filling the gap to produce products - starting from a place of what's missing. People can typically comment or think about how to do something better than what it is.  When starting from a place of lack, one cannot help but stay in a place of lack. 

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But when one starts from a place of desire, suddenly everything shifts. Let me give you an example, For years I've been trying to figure out how to change things in my company that are frustrating to me – the feeling of never having enough time, wearing too many hats,wanting to create new ideas or better systems but feeling buried in the work we currently have.  From that mindset, I've been evaluating what's missing, what's not quite right, what I would do different as a starting place for trying to solve the problem.  And I haven’t gotten very far.

A Trip to Austin

So, I took a few days just to myself, thanks to my wonderful husband (who I think was secretly ecstatic for a few days alone and my mom, who took my daughter for a “cousin camp”).  I went down to Lake Austin Spa to spend time with… me.  I did this thinking I would come back with a new purpose, life planned out, with dramatic shifts along with a strategy.  Instead, I came back with something different.

vision board collage.png

This may have been the only few days I’ve lived without an agenda as an adult.

I took a step back and I slept, walked, read and journaled.  And then on my 2nd day, I started flipping through magazines, pulled out every image that attracted me, or emotionally drawn to, then labeled, and created a collage .  Suddenly, I was in research mode, and knew what to do – this time I was researching myself!  I started looking and what resulted was a really specific “Job to be Done.”

 

Turning it on Myself

I decided to start from a place of desire. I started asking myself why do I feel the urge to change? why is finding my passion so important to me? I have a great family and I'm doing work that I love and feels interesting to me so what's missing? I also asked myself the question what do I most love

Looking at my collage, I realized I needed to develop some patterns or themes. So, my second step was to create definition around the pictures, looking for similarities and differences. When I finished, I had discovered that a lot of what I had passion for was already in my life! In the discovery of trying to find my passion I found that I already had it. What a concept!

Here’s how I translated my “vision collage” into a Job to Be Done.  I’ve wanted to buy or design a “creative, innovation space” for awhile but I have been rejecting in my mind that it’s a viable option…due to all of the negative self-talk rattling around in my mind.  But this process allowed me to open up to the “why” of how this is important to me,...here’s how I organized the picture and post-it data using the JBTD theory.

·      Note: the sentence structure we use for our research, I slightly changed.  Instead of “I use”, I replaced with “I need”

·      Note: the sentence structure we use for our research, I slightly changed.  Instead of “I use”, I replaced with “I need”

I need (what)

-       to create a beautiful space where light, water, nature and creativity connect

-       an innovative, transformative space for me and others to create

-       space to breathe - to feel, to be, to love, to give thanks

 

When (the situation)

-       I’m in my current state of desiring a life that’s true for me

 

I want to (what motivates me)

-       create vibrant ways for people to come together for fun, cozy connection

-       help others find their joy and facilitate groups growing together

 

So I can (the outcome I want)

-       set myself free and surrender to loving what's important to me

-       explore into the unknown with a spirit of adventure

-       let go of what doesn’t serve me

In the end, what came up for me was unexpected. What I discovered is that I was not spending enough time implementing experiences into my life which gives me joy. So suddenly these themes that emerged allowed me to start taking action on some small steps and over the hump of feeling like I had to make some huge life change in order to find my passion or make things better. And in turn, it has brought newfound passion for fulfilling this dream!

 

 

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Being Present Through A Lens

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Being Present Through A Lens

When folks say “follow your passion”, what often comes to mind are big ideas. Major dreams, many times ones we believe are unattainable. Things like starting a business, writing a book, or climbing an 8,000-meter peak. But sometimes following your passion is a series of small things, an activity that you find a way to weave into your typical day. Even if we struggle between passion and exhaustion in the job we choose, we can inject passion by taking small moments to do things we enjoy just for the sake of doing them. And in that doing, unpredicted benefits arise. For me, that’s photography. 

Like a lot of people my age who invest in photography, my interest started with back in high school where I learned to shoot black and white film on a manual camera. I enjoyed that tremendously, but It’s come and gone over the years without really sticking. I wasn’t willing to dedicate the time and money I felt was needed. Digital came on, but I wasn’t excited about the quality or expense – why spend a lot of money on a tool that may be out of date within two years, when you’re not even doing it that often to begin with?

photography umbrella.jpg

Over the years my life became more complex. Having a child, juggling two careers (1 helping my wife’s business + a corporate gig), which has now have morphed into one, making room for family, friends, two dogs and a Shasta trailer. In keeping up with all that, there became less and less time to pursue hobbies. About four years ago, I acquired two items that used to be passions of mine as a teenager – an electric guitar and a digital camera. That guitar has not seen much action, but the camera took off. It was something I could carry with me to the events of my life, and was especially encouraged if I was aiming at my now 6-year-old daughter. Perfect!

Noble winner, Daniel Kahneman has said there are 20,000 moments in every day. They are all different and your brain remembers them them in slices. When we recall a favorite moment in the past, we are often brought back to one of these slices that were especially meaningful to us. This is where our brain recorded that moment as the one that captured the feeling best.

photography butterfly.jpg

Photography trains you to be better aware of those moments. My daughter likes to take photographs now, too, on her waterproof/shockproof camera. This of course makes me very proud. Although she always likes looking at the pictures I’ve taken of her, she sometimes gets annoyed when I point the lens at her. To help her accept it, I told her that I am “collecting butterflies”. She asked me what that meant so I said, “memories are like butterflies that come in and then flutter away. I am trying to catch the pretty ones in my net so I can look at them later”.

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Have I followed my passion by becoming a National Geographic photographer for a living? Not so much.

 

 

Have I followed it by weaving photography into the life I already have, and adding a layer of joy and appreciation to it? Yes, definitely.

 

 

What is that thing that you love to do for the sake of doing, that could maybe find a way back into your routine? You may be surprised by what it brings.

photography beach.jpg

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How to Build Data That's Useful

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How to Build Data That's Useful

Analytics and Stroller Pushing

One of the best analytical lessons I ever learned was nowhere near my computer. My wife and I were gearing up to have our first child. We were shopping for a baby stroller. If you have done this, you know the choices are paralyzing. There are at least 20 options that are rated on multiple qualities. After hours of debating what should have been painless choice, we stopped ourselves and asked, “what is the most important feature here”. After thinking about it, my wife said, “I want to be able to reach down with one hand (because the other will be holding the baby) and pick it up so it collapses, then toss it in the back of the RAV4 in one motion.” Suddenly, 20 options went down to 2 or 3, and we made a decision a minute after that.

Analytics-and-Stroller-Pushing

Good data insight development follows this approach. It is not an attempt to build the Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s an agreement on what piece of currently unavailable information would make the most difference to the people who actually run the business. Here is a fun little video of me talking about this.

Back in 2011 I took a leap of faith. I left the stability of Pepsico to lead an analytics group in a much smaller Energy company. At that time, I was introduced to a new software called Tableau. It seemed pretty cool, and was easy to learn if you were a strong excel user. So off I went with my team to build reports from the database of company information we had put together.

One of the first and certainly most notorious reports we developed was for a “very eager” and attention-challenged marketing manager. The good news is that he loved data and believed in not making decisions without it. The bad news is that there was no end to the data that he felt he needed to look at.

My team went on to develop the report exactly the way that he wanted it, with all the different possible views and filters he could think of.  With this one report, he would be able to see everything, and answer every question that his directors could pose.

This is an example of what it looked like. My team gave it a name: “Filters Gone Wild.” No one else in the company could stand to use this report for more than two minutes without needing a glass of scotch.

Filters-Gone-Wild

So why to people do this? Isn’t it a noble intention, after all, to want to see more data? The reason is because complexity creates its own burden, As it turns out, consuming data is a lot like purchasing jam - more isn’t always better.  Not only is there a point of diminishing returns in how satisfied we are, but our ability to act is reduced significantly as well.

That was a really interesting role for me, and I’m glad I took it. Not only did I learn a lot of new, useful skills, but more importantly I got to see the gamut of “clients” and how they wanted data. The better ones understood this concept of simplification.

Around the same time, there was an article released by MIT, which put some science to what I was learning. They surveyed a few thousand people at multiple companies and determined that top performers were five times more likely to use analytics than lower performers. No surprise there, but what was more interesting was how the top companies approached data.  It wasn’t about budgets or sophistication of software; the lower performers cited development process and managerial issues as a major contributor to blocking progress. What - people are getting in the way?!?

A recent client experience motivated me to write this blog. The team had purchased all the software it needed to bang out good reporting. They had a small army of internal folks and contractors who could wrangle and structure the data as good as anyone. But when the six-month check-in time on a nine-month project came, they discovered that only rudimentary reporting had been developed, and that the internal clients were disappointed to the point of considering pulling the funding for the expensive software they purchased.

Why? Because the IT developers who were in charge of it had treated it as a requirements fulfillment exercise.

One of the key points of the MIT article was a concept they called “start in the middle”. In their findings, they saw a trend in the approach of effective teams where they would simplify the issue to discover the most relevant information to move the needle the most, and then iterate against that until they honed it to a useful state.

It’s a conversation between business people, that happens to use technology as a tool to make it come to life. There is no requirement to gather, because it’s never really known completely what is needed until the discovery begins. It’s not a conversation with executives, it’s with the frontline managers and directors who make the business happen. Once they start becoming successful, peers start taking notice and the path to a data-driven culture organically grows.

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Do You Need a Data Scientist?

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Do You Need a Data Scientist?

Data Science is all the rage. Career interest has surged, programs are offered at more and more universities, and every company is talking about needing it. But do you? How do you know, and when would you hire one? These are questions that get glossed over in the race to be smarter.

April Bell Research Group

Data Science is a powerful tool  - it can unlock understanding in data, which leads to new insights no one considered. However, often the most practical insights arrive as a result of Data Mining and posing the right questions.

At the latest MSMR conference at UT Arlington, the keynote presentation “Behind the Corporate Curtain” by Simon Chadwick talked about where corporate research spending was headed in the next five years. The top two items of incremental focus, above CX and Digital, was Data Analytics and Data Mining, plus integrating multiple data streams.

 

 

First, let me break down what is meant by these three “Data” terms we’ve mentioned – Analytics, Mining, and Science:

  1. Data Analytics – working with the business to describe, predict and improve business performance through data. Broad subject that includes many tools and techniques.
  2. Data Mining – examining large data sets to generate new information or insights. A tool of analytics used to dig in, clean up, and see what nuggets there are in the data.
  3. Data Science – applying statistical methods to data to generate new information or insights. A tool of analytics used to apply a specific technique to generate a specific result.
April Bell Research Group

Remember that finding that got Target all the press a few years back, where they could predict when a girl was pregnant before her father knew? That was heralded as a slick data science discovery, but it wasn’t, it was just good ‘ole fashioned data mining. Finding that right pebble on the beach.

Target had conducted a study to understand what major life events force a break in normal shopping routines, opportunities to capture new customers. One of the more interesting ones was getting pregnant. Around the same time, they were pulling all their shopper and sales data into one spot to allow them to track purchases by customer.

April Bell Research Group

 

Then, someone asked the following: “what products does someone, who we eventually realize is pregnant, purchase in the early stages of pregnancy?” If Target could get them in the door early, they would likely stick with the store for all their later needs. After just identifying those customers and walking backwards through their shopping data to look for patterns, the answer was not baby gear, it was  unscented lotions.

A client that I was working with told me recently, “I can bring in a statistician, but I think I’d also have to hire someone to accompany them to talk to the business user. They know the mechanics, but wouldn’t be able have a meaningful segmentation discussion.” These are wise words from a leader who is trying to bring advanced capability to an organization. A more inexperienced leader would hire a small army of statisticians and hope the “build it and they will come” strategy pays off. It typically doesn’t.

Capital One is a company that jumps to mind often as a leader in data science. They employ an army of statisticians, and consider how they analyze data to be a completive advantage. There is a famous Harvard Business School case study on them that explains this, but also more importantly, describes a business process that they followed early on, which allowed them to gain share quickly before their competition could react: testing and innovation

They were relentless in conducting market testing for different offers and products, targeted to groups of people that they thought might respond.  Yes, there was data science behind the segmentation and prediction that helped shape the hypothesis, but the sheer volume of testing, measuring and validating was what set them apart. They were throwing a hundred pieces of spaghetti on the wall and seeing which 5 would stick, then aggressively going after those ideas before their competition could react. They used data science as a methodology, but their business model described in that moment of their history was to outsprint, not outsmart.

April Bell Research Group

The statistical analysis of Data Science is a powerful tool, and well deserves its place in the toolbox of any company doing advanced analytics. But advanced comes after intermediate, and when an intermediate company tries to follow a “me-too” advanced strategy, it is ignoring the value of what intermediate data mining can bring. All too often this wastes valuable time for a company, trying to be something they aren’t…yet. Data science is part of a mature progression of data capability, formed from having as a clear sense of how it can successfully integrate into a business process before the first study is conducted.

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Road Stories on how Married Couples go into Business Together Lesson #3

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Road Stories on how Married Couples go into Business Together Lesson #3

Working for my wife has its challenges. In my last blog I talked about how it’s particularly fun when you quickly discover that your new role involves knowing the subtleties of what and how your wife likes her coffee. You will be getting a lot of that for her until you figure out how to bring in some bacon.

What’s positive about being married and working together is the flexibility. Although things get crazy at times and the ride is much less predictable, there is more flexibility in scheduling time off. Gone are the days when I had to disappoint her with the response that I can’t take an opportunistic four-day weekend, because I’ve used my corporate accrual allotment of vacation year-to-date. Like a lot of corporate terms, it’s hard to know what that means exactly but it’s safe to say that you’re screwed.   

I’m learning to be more grateful for the times that we can sneak away.

So, in this post I wanted to simply make that point, and share some photos I took of our trip we took to Cancun for her “birthday week”. Thank you, Marriott reward points!

Enjoy!

Boy that water is a pretty blue.

Boy that water is a pretty blue.

And the sunsets are stunning above the sea

And the sunsets are stunning above the sea

April was pretty darn relaxed

April was pretty darn relaxed

And able to spend quality time with Autumn

And able to spend quality time with Autumn

My daughter thinks she is Moana

My daughter thinks she is Moana

And did her happy dance every day of the trip

And did her happy dance every day of the trip

April’s perspective:

When can I go back?

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How to Love Spring Cleaning

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How to Love Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again. There’s something primitive in the sense we get come springtime. Maybe we’re just wired this way. Spring brings with it a desire to clean house, to get rid of the stuff. The stuff that has magically survived the selection process and found what seems to be a permanent home in our garage, closet or pantry. We used it before, a long time ago, and it would really come in handy if that time ever came again. Yet it hasn’t, so it just sits and waits another day.

Here at ABRG, there are two things that describe us well: we love research, and we love learning about how to be more efficient (try running a thriving boutique research firm with four people and you’ll understand why). Recently, we had the opportunity to do both. While in an ideation workshop with a client, we conducted a practice brainstorming exercise on the topic of spring cleaning. To get people geared up and in the mode of ideation, we typically have them practice on an off-topic, non-business subject that’s ripe for multiple ideas.

The topic of spring cleaning fits well, so we asked them to come up with as many ideas they could on “what’s a creative way you could attack a spring cleaning exercise”? To set the stage we give them some guidance on how to keep coming up with ideas:

Lightbulb
  1. Land on something, and think of other solutions
  2. Wish list it – what could I do if….
  3. If you feel that you can’t relate, think of who you could ask
  4. Work individually first, then as a group
  5. When you’re stuck, move around or talk to someone

The answers were creative, practical, and fun!

A good ideation generates multiple ideas without judging them on whether they are good or bad, because sometimes the crazy ideas lead to break-throughs of innovation.

  • Live in a hotel.
  • Open a bottle of wine.
  • Make the kids do it.
  • Buy stock in cleaning companies.
  • Ask Alexa.

Some responses had themes of minimalism, which ironically asserts that happiness is achieved in life by having less, not more. The less stuff we fill our space and lives with, the more we are open to things that really matter – time with family, focused effort on our passions, appreciation of our surroundings. One blog we follow at ABRG is Becoming Minimalist. If you follow the thread of minimalism you’ll recognize these suggestions to overcome decluttering:

  1. If you haven’t used it in three months/one year, throw it out.
  2. Does it bring you joy?
  3. Don’t start reminiscing.
  4. Would it be that hard to replace?
  5. Have I worn it in 2 months?

Some ideas had efficiency in mind, how to get through the emotionally tough nature of the process in a way that works. At ABRG, we follow Asian Efficiency and have gotten a ton of great advice through their resources over the past few years. There were some good ideas on how to best go about it:

  • Go room by room.
  • Clean as you go.
  • Hire people and give them each a room.
  • Go through the out-of-site, out-of-mind places.
  • Make someone else go through your stuff and throw out anything that doesn’t look good.
  • Buy storage bins with labels – prioritize what you store, and once the bin is full throw out the rest.

This year, we’re going to make this painful process more fun and efficient by tossing in a few of these ideas. We hope you pick up a few tips that help you, too!

 

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Art of Data Simplicity

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Art of Data Simplicity

I recently made the leap from the corporate side. After 15 years of helping people understand and solve problems with their data, I decided that my profession would be more enjoyable as a consultant, where I would be able to see a wider variety of challenging work. That’s certainly been the case!

Photographer

Like a lot of people, I’m amazed at how the data world has grown. The amount of data and the tools available are impressive. I wish that I had some of these tools available to me when I started my journey, but then again, I wonder how much of that would have mattered. Like a photographer who gets better through the process of just shooting more pictures, a data person gets better by just analyzing data – whether it’s on a spreadsheet or a sophisticated analytical platform.

Which brings to another theme I’ve seen in my 15 years, and has recently gotten worse: people forget the power of simple data. It’s a syndrome that’s common and has blown up with the increase in data and tools. Many organizations rush to gather as much as they can and purchase tools to understand it - afraid they will not be competitive without it.  What’s more likely than not, though, is that they wind up with mismatched pieces or tools that don’t play well with each other.

I’m reminded of the book Data Smart, that walks the reader through the basics of data science through follow-along exercises in Excel. By doing that, you understand the data at it’s lowest level, and get what the statistical method is doing far better than if you had used a sophisticated drag-and-drop software. Great read.

Another great read on that topic is Data Science for Business, which does an excellent job of explaining the “so what” and “why does it matter” behind different statistical methodologies. What you method you choose to follow shapes whether or not you’re going to get a result that means anything.

In thinking back on it, my whole data career has been around getting people past this, creating things that are simple and actionable and move them forward quickly. It’s not just a technical exercise. Like qualitative marketing research, the approach that’s used makes all the difference. “Garbage in, garbage out” is often what got people to that place to start with, so empathizing and getting to the right question is a necessary first step.

 

 

Ladybug in Hand

 

Take customer experience for example. There are a lot of great tools out there, from Qualtrics to Medallia, and more and more companies have staff dedicated to CX. However, what most of them can’t answer is “what effect will this campaign have’, or “what is the value of converting a passive to a promoter’? They are not getting at the “so what” behind the data, because they are relying on the system-fed metrics that their platform provides.

Getting past that involves the right mix of business and technical know-how. One without the other produces limited results. 

Would you like to know more about what ABRG can do to help? Read this paper on our capabilities and case studies.

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No Nonsense Essential Oils

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No Nonsense Essential Oils

wellness

Over the years, we’ve learned the hard way how important it is to take care of ourselves, especially when we need to travel for a project and during seasons of long research days. April introduced us to using health-promoting botanicals in the form of essential oils as a more natural approach to enhancing our general wellness by:

  • Inspiring a positive emotional state
  • Enhancing physical wellness
  • Enhancing spiritual awareness
  • Purifying the air

 

 

Since then, we’ve read more about how we can better use essential oils at work. In our continuous quest to lead a healthy life and create better moods during projects with clients, we’ve listed our favorite oils/blends brands and their uses:

essential oils
  • Peppermint by doTerra – to remove headaches, revive energy, freshens breath
  • InTune by doTerra – to enhance the senses and sustain focus
  • Digestzen by doTerra – for indigestion
  • Stress Away by Young Living – to combat stress
  • Thieves by Young Living – to purify
  • Lavender by doTerra – for relaxation (and sleep)
  • Lemon by doTerra – to cleanse
  • Frankincense by doTerra – helps boost immunity
  • Melaleuca by doTerra – fights bacteria and fungus
  • Oregano by doTerra – helps treat common cold or flu

We keep a stash of these oils in the office and our travel bag together with a diffuser so we can diffuse away (e.g. Peppermint during intense research days) or apply topically (e.g. Stress Away during concept work sessions) when we most need them.

Recently, April shared with us an article that talks about becoming aware of our basic tendencies so we can make better choices to support the harmony in body and mind.  And this article which tells the story about how choosing nourishing smells will awaken the mind’s innate healing powers and experience a natural vitality and wholeness based on our dosha. What is dosha, you ask?  Dosha is a person’s “mind-body” type and there are 3 primary types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Are you curious what your dosha is?  Well, you can take a quiz here to find out! Briefly, these are what the doshas mean:

dosha
  • Vata: Movement and Change
    • Tends to be always on the go with an energetic and creative mind
  • Pitta: Transformation and Metabolism
    • Enjoy a strong appetite and ability to digest food, information, and experiences
  • Kapha:  Structure and Fluidity
    • Solid, reliable, contented souls

Based on your mind-body type (dosha), there are certain aromas (essential oils) that can help evoke states of well-being:

  • Vata: floral, fruity, warm, sweet, and sour smells
    • Basil, Orange, Geranium, Clove, Vanilla, Patchouli
  • Pitta: cooling and sweet smells
    • Sandalwood, Mint, Rose, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Lavender
  • Kapha: stimulating and spicy smells
    • Eucalyptus, Camphor, Juniper, Clove, Marjoram, Rosemary

We’re looking forward to taking the dosha quiz to understand which essential oils can support our goal of leading healthier lives!

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Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project

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Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project

Last summer, one of our favorite clients commissioned us for a project where they needed reactions from both kids AND parents!

The problem we’ve found in the past is that kid’s reactions are somewhat biased by their parents (and sometimes, although not always), some parents want to influence their child’s reactions.  However, we needed to have parents’ perspective to get a holistic view.

Our goal is to design research as “efficiently” as possible so we worked side by side with our client partner to create research that would allow reactions from BOTH parents & children separately in the same group.

So we designed a process that will ensure the project will be a success: 

  • The Problem: How do you design a kid’s research where you are able to get uninfluenced responses from both the kids AND their parents? Did I forget to mention that apart from talking to kids, we also wanted to get their parents’ reactions and inputs?
  • The Solution: Create an environment where both the kids and parents would feel comfortable being separated in some parts of the research. Trust me, it’s not a logistical nightmare!
    • Set-up a movie room for kids
    • Explain logistics and timing to parents
    • Coordinate amongst ourselves when kids would be in and out of the focus group discussion

As soon as we figured out the rhythm to the process after the first group, everything was smooth sailing and we were able to implement our research design:

  • Get kids’ taste preference while parents watched in the back room.
  • Get parents’ interpretation of their kids’ food ratings.
  • Understand how both the parent and kid come to an agreement and decide what to order.
  • How to effectively get learnings/reactions/inputs with just 8 focus groups.

In the end, we were able to successfully conduct the research. And the bonus was we all had fun with the kids!

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What do Teenagers and the QRCA Conference have in Common?

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What do Teenagers and the QRCA Conference have in Common?

 I recently had the opportunity to attend my first Qualitative Researcher Consultants Association (QRCA) annual conference. I don’t typically consider myself the conference type but I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet people in our industry and learn about the hottest trends. In these situations I usually find myself being overly skeptical thinking I won’t learn as much as I hope to or make connections that will be beneficial to our business. The fact that my boss (April) was also attending made me feel slightly better about sitting in a room full of strangers that I would soon need to be friends with. 

The primary purpose of me attending the conference was to assist April as she gave a presentation to her peers; however, I ended up walking away feeling like I got much more value out of the experience than I expected. April’s presentation (A Framework That Works: Design Thinking + Montessori Principles to Elevate Your Practice) went off without a hitch – which immediately made months of hard work seem like one of the most rewarding tasks we completed last year. You never know how people will react to new material and the moment you see the excitement and passion in the faces, it makes it worth every revision we made.

Design Thinking Exercise

What surprised me most about April’s presentation was how engaged the participants were. When you’ve been reviewing the content for 5+ months leading up to the conference, it’s easy to forget that this content is new for most viewers. During the presentation, she conducted a Design Thinking exercise that required participants to partner up and “build” a prototype of their idea. I was amazed at how serious some took this exercise but loved their willingness to engage with a stranger as they learned about the Design Thinking process. I think it made the awkward “eh, I have to work with someone I don’t know” situation fun and entertaining for most.  

Teen Press

Another highlight of the conference was the Keynote Presentation – Teen Press: A Wild and Precious Perspective – given by John Boettner & Friends. This was an unforgettable experience that brought a unique perspective to the work we do and the world we live in. John, the Chief Enchantment Officer of Teen Press, discussed how he turned a middle school communications class into a group of teenagers interviewing some of the hottest celebrities on red carpets. Not only did they engage with celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence, Oprah, Clint Eastwood to name a few) but they also interviewed some of the most interesting living Americans (for example, the commander of the Osama Bin Laden mission, a woman who held President Obama’s hand across the bridge in Selma, and a young Rwandan who lost his hands to genocide). 

Teen Press teaches kids how to listen to peoples’ stories and ask honest questions – although they’re sometimes difficult to ask and answer. By pushing the kids to conduct pre-interview research, they entered their interviews with a sense of confidence that many times shocked the respondent and made them more likely to engage. This program inspires kids to think: “if I can talk to the CEO of Patagonia, I can do anything”. John’s presentation was such a welcomed breath of fresh air in the world we’re currently living in. These kids don’t care who voted red or blue, they just want to know about people and what makes them different. The kids weren’t there to judge the interviewee, and the interviewee wasn’t there to judge the kids. They were both there to learn. These kids are so admirable for their dedication and openness to learning about others. Something I strive to do myself – in and out of research. Who knew you could learn so much from kids?

Here is a short clip on Teen Press, but if you have some extra time I highly recommend watching the full Teen Press video (~30 minutes) to get the full experience of how great these kids and this program is. 

So while I still don’t consider myself the conference type, I’m so glad I attended. I walked away with a perspective I wasn’t expecting – if you go into these “uncomfortable” situations with an open mind, you are much more likely to learn more than you initially thought and meet some really interesting people. I guess sitting with strangers isn’t so bad after all. 

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