I was reading an interesting market research article by Tim McAtee. This line near the end of the article really jumped out at me: “…this approach can make research more enjoyable for the subject by making survey vehicles less boring.”
This raised a couple of questions for me:
- How much fun do our participants have when they are engaged in a project with us?
- Does it matter to the outcome of the research?
Fun can certainly add value. Any interviewer knows that getting someone to relax during the interview results in more honest answers and better research findings. We purposely write our interview guides to start off with more general topics so we can get the participant engaged.
Of course, you do have to cover the topic of the research well, but if the participant is qualified to talk about a topic, they probably really enjoy talking about it. And of course a completely boring survey, especially with too many ranking or rating matrix questions, will have a huge drop-off, or if the stipend is really good, they’ll speed through the survey to get the completes without giving thoughtful answers.
On the flip side you can have some bad results in a focus group when there is too much positive energy floating around the room – which is just as bad as an overly negative atmosphere. You can’t have an environment where people are hesitant to share negative viewpoints because they don’t want to bring everyone down.
IMHO there are some definitive statements about fun and market research:
- Boring is NEVER good for market research.
- Participants who enjoy the process give better feedback.
- Fun cannot come at the expense of research goals.
I have one more theory: If the researcher is engaged and enjoying the study, that helps the outcome too. Here at Dimensional Research, we love what we do! We find the IT professionals we have the pleasure to work with endlessly fascinating. They have a truly difficult job and their creativity, tenacity, and smarts consistently impress us.