Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blinkered thinking - not good


And so back to qualitative research: What's good? What's not? 

I recently had a letter published in B&T magazine about qualitative frameworks.  In case you missed it, here’s the gist of it:

I’m not a fan of proprietary qualitative products. You know, those neatly packaged, pre-defined frameworks with the little TM (trademark) symbol tipping its hat, top right. New product development, brand development, needs based segmentations, etc. You name it – seems that there’s a framework for sale.

This is clever marketing. Research buyers, who might not be comfortable with qualitative research, who may find the approach a bit gossamer or nebulous, would probably be reassured by the cut-and-dried impression of control this gives.

But using a pre-defined framework in qualitative research is inappropriate.

Why?

Well, I don’t think I’m going to start any great debates by suggesting that good qualitative research output, by its very nature, is unpredictable. It’s exploratory: you’re (hopefully) learning something that you didn’t know. There are curls and swirls and surprises each and every way you look. That’s the magic of it.

Meanwhile, a pre-defined framework sets parameters that preclude the user from discovering much of the unexpected.

The point is that one should expect the unexpected from any decent qualitative inquiry (or why bother?).

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