Friday, December 17, 2010

Principles for Effective Observation

More and more firms are shifting their focus in marketing research away from surveys and focus groups toward direct observation of consumers in natural settings. This type of anthropological research has been a mainstay of the great product design firms for many years, and it has now become commonplace for many consumer goods companies as well. Here are a few tips on the do's and don'ts of observation, taken from my most recent book:

Principles for Effective Observation



Try to wipe away preconceived notions before starting your observations

Begin with a strong expectation of what you expect to see

Collect observations under different circumstances and from varied perspectives

Draw major conclusions from a very small and/or biased sample of observations

Seek informants wisely

Rely on the lone voice of a so-called expert

Take good notes, including quotes from key conversations, and collect important artifacts

Try to commit everything strictly to memory

Engage in active listening

Ask leading questions

Keep systematic track of observations that surprise you or contradict your prior beliefs

Seek and record data primarily to prove a pre-existing hypothesis

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