The Power of Perspective

06.06.16

What makes a good qualitative researcher? I recently posed this question to my peers on LinkedIn, and as I expected, impartiality was high up the list. Being open, non-judgemental and taking care not to influence the research process or lead respondents are seen as key behaviours when it comes to conducting qualitative research.

Leave your opinions at the door.

As a researcher, these principles are drilled into you from day one. As humans, none of us are truly detached and objective. We all have beliefs, preconceptions and opinions based on our personal experience.  If we don’t acknowledge this, we are in danger of leading respondents and getting them to answer or behave in a certain way.

Purists go even further and use principles from reflexivity, a research approach grounded in anthropology, to provide an even more objective and impartial approach.  Reflexivity involves consciously examining and acknowledging the assumptions and preconceptions you as a researcher bring into the research and the impact you have on the outcome.

So, it’s widely agreed that as researchers we should leave our personal beliefs, preconceptions, experience and opinions at the door. Or are we missing something? 

Embrace the power of difference

I believe that there are some scenarios where the perspective of the person conducting the research is as interesting and important as the person we are observing or speaking to. Because we are human, no two researchers will “see” or interpret a session in exactly the same way. Rather than seeing this as a problem, embracing the power of different perspectives can help take us on a much more interesting journey. 

Insight-led innovation is one area where this approach works really well.  Here, the purpose of the insight activity is as much about inspiring the innovation process as it is about understanding consumer needs, beliefs and desires. One single, unusual observation can be as valuable as identification of common themes or behaviour and you need “New Eyes” to see this.

Accelerating innovation

So, what happens when we really stretch this approach?   What happens when we deliberately bring people with very different perspectives into the insight process, and encourage them to observe and look at things through their own expert lens?  The answer – we see more, we see differently, we find that observations immediately start sparking ideas, accelerating the innovation process.

At KD, we deliberately bring different expert perspectives into our insight work and call this approach New Eyes.  Working alongside our research team, our Design, Engineering, UX, Prototyping, Brand and Technology experts bring their own perspective and experience to insight sessions.  We don’t ask them to be researchers, or passive observers – we ask them to be themselves, to deliberately think about what they are seeing and what that means from their expert point of view.  They are encouraged to participate, to explore avenues that are interesting to them and to hunt for those moments of inspiration.

5 principles of New Eyes

1. Build the right team: think about which perspectives are most relevant to the challenge and what you want to do with the output. 

2. Expert focus: brief the team and get them thinking about how they will apply their expert perspective in the sessions.  What are their hunches and hypotheses and what are they interested in exploring.

3. Guide but don’t dictate: explain the principles of qualitative research and key behaviours but don’t make them “researchers” – they need to be free to see and explore things in their own way

4. Capture perspectives: capture individual expert perspectives immediately after the session.  Identify where the perspectives of the researcher and the expert come together to build rich observation-based insights which have emotional context as well as providing inspiration.

5. From opportunities to ideas: transition from insights straight into ideas with the same cross-functional team, realising the full potential of the insight work to inspire the innovation process

What does this mean for the overall innovation process?  It means we start with a much richer and more diverse set of starting points as we’ve looked at things from multiple perspectives.  It also provides a seamless, accelerated transition into ideas and from there into concepts with a cross-functional team who have been there from the start.

Using New Eyes we have observed behaviour and unearthed insights that otherwise could have remained hidden.  We have translated these insights into tangible opportunity platforms for clients such as Sony, Coca-Cola, Tetra Pak and Unilever to provide a clear vision and direction for their business.

If you want to know more about the ‘New Eyes’ approach please contact Kate Leckie, Head of Research.