As the first qualitative researcher in a travel experiences business, I have been raising awareness of how qual and quant differ, and can be combined to support product decisions. Particularly if you need to:
- Explain paradoxes
- Augment and enrich clues
- Understand prevalence
- Ask the right questions
- Frame hypotheses
Sam Ladner’s Mixed Methods book and Erica Hall’s recent articles on badly designed surveys (links referenced below), have offered rich food for thought and guidance on this theme, so I credit and thank them both, for this.
Why you might need to start raising awareness about mixing methods?
Traditionally we rely on product owners to connect qual and quant insights and use them to make decisions. Personally I’ve found that people who understand the pros and cons of both qual and quant, and how to sequence them to leverage their value, can be a rarity. Also, relying on one person to flit between the two ‘states’ can be challenging, particularly as qual and quant embody different but equally valuable mindsets. Sam Ladners describes this as two views of the truth, which I’ll attempt to paraphrase below.
If we think of the double diamond, The qualitative mindset is divergent and generative. Qual research involves building understanding, exploring the complexity and nuance of a person’s reality and appreciating that this is constructed. For example my perspective of ‘well being ‘ is based on my experiences, my mental models… the highs and lows of those micro moments and my interpretation of that. This as a constructivist perspective of reality or an understanding that truth is fluid and built.
I m primarily a qual researcher, and so, from my limited understanding, the quant research mindset is convergent, as it focusses on correlation and deduction. Ideas are proven or disproven. Logic is applied to arrive at a conclusion. Concepts fit into neater categories. The truth is objective and the facts are stable.
When might you raise awareness?
a team where qual research was respected and championed, but run in a silo from split test and analytics teams. Opportunities to split test or advise on tasks to measure sucess for, were ample, but hard to deliver as a result. KPIs like sales and KPIs, were high level harder to action.
a team where market research was well established, and focus groups were the main recognised source of qual.
If you’re a quant researcher, how have you found working with qualitative mindsets? What worked well or could have been better?
Qual researchers, how did you know when to switch from a divergent to a convergent state with your research? What were the signs or clues? Whatever stage you’re at, I’m keen to hear how others have combined methods.
- Mixed Methods: A short guide to applied mixed methods research, Sam Ladner
- Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research , Mike Kuniavsky and Elizabeth Goodman