Adopting an Iterative & Consultative Qual Research Approach

Post By David Varner

September 28, 2018

Several years ago, my wife and I naively purchased a fixer-upper planning to gut-renovate it ourselves with the guidance of my quite-handy father-in-law. We had preconceived notions of how the process would go, how it would look when finished, how much time and money we would spend on the labor of love. We rapidly learned while breaking open plaster-caked walls of lath and horsehair insulation that flexibility to quickly adjust away from our early assumptions of how the renovation would go was a must. We did not know, what we did not know, but when we found out, we had to be nimble and willing to change approaches and plans. If you have ventured into such an undertaking, you too know that it requires an ability to react to and process through the unexpected surprises that pop-up out of the blue. As we slogged through, we were successful because when exposed to new information we took brief moments to pause and to analyze on what we had learned. We made proper adjustments and improvements on what we planned next based on the information gleaned along the way, albeit in the form of construction “do’s and don’ts.” We sharpened our approach each step of the way resulting in a beautiful home, but one that was quite different than what we had imagined it would be.

Likewise, in today’s research environment, you must provide meaningful insights quickly and with agility as you pivot research questions and overall research plans while gathering new information and forming new hypotheses. You need the ability to incorporate an iterative problem solving framework into your methodology which opens the door to a more consultative and strategic approach. In doing so, you move away from traditional research processes of multiple-week periods of fieldwork followed by multiple-week periods of analysis before providing your client with multiple-slide powerpoint decks of what now could be old, less actionable findings and results. Through an iterative and consultative research approach, you learn as you go, find out what questions work and which do not, and adjust target sample composition along the way. You proceed through the insights gathering process nimbly, course-correcting along the way until you are able, with confidence and with a wealth of leading-edge knowledge, provide your client with recommendations and insights that drive change and growth within their businesses, and in yours.  

Moreover, you create an environment of collaboration not only with your research team, but also with your client that is a key ingredient to driving valuable, actionable insights. Increasingly, clients want to be involved and want to be informed at each stop along the insight-gathering highway. They want, and deserve, an approach that involves their feedback and thoughts not only at the culmination of the engagement, but also at the early and mid stages of hypotheses development (and stages in between those) so that adjustments can be made before “wasting” future research time and budget on pre-conceived–but now invalidated–old notions and theories. Not collaborating with a client until the end of a broad, multiple week engagement is too late to make changes and adjustments without “writing off” already committed research dollars or requiring an entirely new research engagement, or both. In such a situation, the client and you are hamstrung because you were unable to adapt easily to the unexpected findings, which were known several weeks in the past.

The roadblock to successfully adopting a scalable and sustainable iterative and consultative approach oftentimes is mired in the traditional framework by which research, specifically qualitative research, operates logistically. Fundamentally, the project management intensive, email-heavy, multi-layered communication of logistics from one player to the next back and forth up the line, creates a bottleneck that prevents consultants, advisors and market researchers from being agile and limits their ability to incorporate appropriate dynamic real-time changes to the research questions, sample composition and hypotheses, at hand. However, with improved technologies that integrate project management solutions, with sample and with interview communication platforms, we as an industry are at the beginning of a tech-driven period in which researchers are able to break away from relying strictly on the standard operational way of conducting qualitative research allowing them to benefit from a more iterative and consultative research approach.

At InCrowd our mission is to simplify and automate market research in the healthcare space.  We believe that an automated qualitative management solution that leverages the power of technology will allow for an iterative and consultative approach of building on insights in small blocks of interviews across the lifecycle of an engagement. In place of standard operational processes, researchers will use an on-demand, autonomous approach for daily qualitative fieldwork management, interviewing and analysis. While moderation will continue to rely on qualified, experienced researchers engaging with a respondent, the technology will manage the operational steps to getting to the interview. In doing so, researchers are empowered to make rapid adjustments to sample composition, screener requirements and discussion guide questions. By utilizing technology to drive and manage the fieldwork process, less time is spent in the recruiting and data collection phases, freeing time for step-by-step analysis, collaboration and insight-sharpening with internal teams and external clients. When you apply an iterative and consultative approach you provide richer and more actionable insights to your clients as you sharpen your knowledge and hone strategies incrementally for the next round of research based on these learnings.     

Through an automated qualitative management solution you have the flexible tools in place to build insights block-by-block while adjusting and course-correcting along the way without committing to a stagnant research plan void of the ability to move nimbly at a time when an agile approach is required. You are able to work smarter, not necessarily harder, but definitely with more stakeholder alignment and collaboration as you experiment and react to the AHA!s that pop up out of the blue, hopefully not in the form of plaster-caked walls of lath and horsehair insulation.

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