The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. Vol 2 Issue 12   December 2006


This is our last issue of Research with a Twist for 2006, and we want to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and comments throughout the months.

Today, and in a bit of a 180-degree turn from our usual approach of offering “how to” suggestions, we focus on three important things not to do when conducting and presenting research!

All of us at CSR want to wish all of you the happiest of holiday seasons, and a prosperous and healthy 2007!

Please click here to send us your thoughts and comments.

Julie Brown

Mark Palmerino
Executive Vice President

3 Surefire Ways to Present Research Poorly

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at home in the living room, talking to my wife, Beth, and just relaxing after a long day. I’d been traveling quite a bit, and it was nice to be home for a change in the middle of the week.

Suddenly, I heard the back door slam, and in walked my 14 year old son, Tim. I’ve been the father of a teenager long enough to know that when one of these beings arrives, anything can happen, and this day was no exception. Because no sooner had Tim come in, that I noticed the T-Shirt he was wearing: It promoted a music group, and had an image of a skull-shaped, yellow fireball on a black background, with the words “AS I LAY DYING” emblazoned across the front.

Let me just stop right there and tell you that my wife and I are fairly devout Christians. And while we don’t necessarily expect our kids to follow exactly in our footsteps, seeing my son wearing what to me was a borderline demonic image, was, well, startling.

You’ll be happy to know that like any good parent, I wasted no time in telling him what was wrong with his shirt, his point of view and his way of life. I think I even threw in a few things about his friends for good measure.

Beth, to her credit, said nothing during my tirade, preferring instead to watch me dig myself into a deeper and deeper hole. Because as it turned out, the band in question, on the T- Shirt in question, is made up of self-professed Christians who seek to promote positive messages.

Here’s the point: In reacting to this T-Shirt, I violated a number of guidelines for being an effective researcher (let alone being an effective parent). I jumped to conclusions, pushed my point of view and did more talking than listening, to name just a few.

And so, this month we offer three simple “don’ts” to keep in mind, when faced with your next research opportunity:

  1. Formulate Your Next Comment While Waiting for Others to Stop Talking

    If you’ve ever watched the television show “Whose Line is it Anyway?“, you’ve seen some pretty good improv: A group of people, playing out a scene with no script and no director; just reacting to each other for several minutes at a time.

    It’s my understanding that the basis of improv is something called “accepting the offer.” In other words, whatever the other players say or do in the scene, you, as an improv actor, need to go with it. Any objection or hesitation on your part, and the entire thing comes to a screeching halt.

    Accepting the offer is not an easy thing to do, in large part because it requires real time, active listening. You can’t be thinking about your next comment or plotting your next action ahead of time, because your objective is to go with the flow of what the other players are offering.

    When it comes to conversation (let alone interviewing), most of us don’t listen so much as take turns. You tell a story, I tell a story. You make an observation, I make an observation. It may look like conversation, but it’s often more like verbal sparring.

    Effective interviewing, by contrast, requires a commitment to listening… really listening. It demands an openness to the point of view of others and a willingness to have the conversation lead in an unanticipated direction. As legendary CBS interviewer, Bob Schieffer, once said: “The secret to interviewing is not the questions you ask, it is listening to what a person says. That’s where you get the good information.”

  2. Never Pass Up an Opportunity to Prove Your Intelligence and Expertise

    Many years ago, I worked with an individual who had a habit of asking a question, and then, just as the other person began to respond, promptly interrupted and answered the question herself. She was very bright, but her idea of “conversation” often meant showing off how she already knew all the answers.

    Often, professional researchers (particularly if somewhat new on the job, or in a role where they believe they are expected to “be the research expert”), feel a need to demonstrate capabilities and knowledge at every turn. It’s understandable, but it’s also a surefire way to shut down communication.

    Remember, if you already know, you’re not learning, and if your interviewees or business associates feel intimidated or in competition with you, you’ll walk away with much less information and insight. Instead, approach your interviews and conversations with colleagues as a detective… eager for clues and always on the hunt for the real meaning beneath the surface.

  3. Never Sacrifice Your Ideals

    This may sound strange at first, since we’ve all been told to stand up for what we believe. And when it comes to the big issues — honesty, open communication, respect for others, etc. — I couldn’t agree more. In many cases, however, what we have is really no more than a point of view, and sticking to your guns at all costs can derail a project.

    For example, our firm hired a designer recently who, while very talented, insisted (yes, insisted) that we use a particular font in a design element. It was beautiful, but as a practical matter — and in our opinion as his client — not worth the additional trouble and expense to produce. Unfortunately, his artistic sense got in the way of what was to us a more important objective (i.e. cost-effective simplicity), and in the end, we had to struggle to reach middle ground.

    As a professional, it’s in the best interests of both you and your clients (internal and external) for you to offer an honest point of view and say what you really think. Absolutely. But don’t push your perspective so far and so hard that you move from “informed expert” to “uncompromising zealot.” At some point, you cease to add value, and when that happens, you’re no longer helping.

In summary, there are all kinds of ways to be a good (or bad) researcher, and I don’t mean to suggest that these three concepts represent an exhaustive list of what not to do. Keep them in mind, however, and you’ll keep more of your projects — parenting and otherwise — on track.

— Mark

Congratulations to Research With A Twist reader Mark Manley of Apple Computer, who was the fifth person to correctly identify the mistakes in the Mixology section of our last issue.

As promised, Mark was sent one of CSR’s unique and tasteful “Research With a Twist” martini glasses with our thanks and admiration (but, unfortunately, without liquid contents).

And, as they say on TV, thanks to all of you for playing!

Click here to share this newsletter with a colleague.

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

Among the tools and techniques in the researcher’s bag of tricks is something called “laddering.” It’s a simple, but quite powerful concept for getting below surface answers and rote comments.

In a nutshell, laddering involves using a respondent’s answers to formulate the next question, going ever deeper with each step (that’s the “ladder” part). It’s based on the idea that listening and asking questions are intertwined.

For example:

Interviewer: “What do you consider an important trait of a researcher?”
Respondent: “A good researcher is someone who is able to listen and understand what people are saying.”

Interviewer: “Ok, what’s the benefit of listening well?”
Respondent: “Well, if you’re listening, really listening, you will better understand what’s important to client — what they want the research to do for them.”

Interviewer: “What’s the benefit of that deeper understanding?”
Respondent: “For one thing, it allows you to design a more effective study so that what is learned from the research more closely answers the questions that are really important to the client.”

Interviewer: “Ok, so better research results, what’s the benefit of that?”
Respondent: “You end up with recommendations and insights that allow the client and client’s company to be more successful.”

Interviewer: “Coming up with good recommendations and insights, what’s the benefit of that?”
Respondent: “Your client ends up trusting you —that you will help them be successful. It is a way of building a good relationship with your client and that is important.”

You get the idea. Here the respondent helped us link effective listening with building trust and a good relationship with a client, which may not be an obvious advantage of listening, at least from a surface treatment.

While there’s no hard and fast rule for when or how many steps down the ladder you take — it’s a time and resource trade-off and at some point there are diminishing returns — it is an effective tool when used by a skilled researcher who knows there’s more to learn than just the initial response.


3 Surefire Ways to Present Research Poorly

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

Twist and Shout

About Us

For those of you who are regular readers of Quirks Marketing Research Review, you may have seen Mark Palmerino’s article in the November issue of their fine magazine.

The article, entitled “One-On-Ones Put the Quality in Qualitative,” highlighted the often overlooked value in conducting in-depth, one-on-one interviews as a means of uncovering the best thinking and unbiased views of research respondents.

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

“Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.”

— Bertrand Russell

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The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data.


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