QRCA Views Magazine, Fall 2018

22 QRCA VIEWS FALL 2018 www.qrca.org n LUMINARIES n D an Pink is one of America’s most celebrated and successful authors. His books include Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind, To Sell Is Human, and Drive. When we spoke he had just published When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Dan’s books make current social science accessible and show how to leverage this science to improve one’s life. In this interview, Dan and I talk about When and the qualitative research skills he lever- ages in his work. Kay: In a world where technology produces vast amounts of consumer insights, is there still a place for face-to-face research? Dan: My argument has always been that you want to have both. For instance, you could take all of my quantitative data about me like my height, my weight, my cholesterol level, and assem- ble all of that into a data profile of me. That would absolutely give you some insights about who I am, but you can round off those insights if you actually have a conversation with me. Today we have such great analytic tools for data and a whole array of things. You don’t want to abandon those. But you don’t want to rely exclusively on the [quanti- tative] tools because they don’t give you the full picture. Qualitative research doesn’t give you the full picture either. What you need is both. Kay: How do you feel qualitative research fits into the overall picture? Dan: Qualitative research gives some- thing scarce in a world of abundant information, numbers, and analytics. It gives you context. We are, in general, information data rich, but context poor. The only way to understand analytics is to have them in some kind of frame, some kind of context. Qualitative research is a translator of sorts. You can have quantitative informa- tion about your customers, et cetera, but ultimately you have to be able to speak to them in some way if you’re going to use those insights to try to get them to buy your products or service. The ana- lytics alone won’t do that. You have to be able to speak to them in their own lan- guage, and that’s where qualitative research can bear fruit. So we have con- text, we have translation. The third thing qualitative research offers is insights that you weren’t looking for. With data analytics you’re asking very specific and tightly framed questions designed to elicit certain kinds of responses. I’m a big fan of quantitative research. I think it’s extremely important, but it doesn’t do as good a job at yielding things that you’re not looking for in a way that qualitative research does. In qualita- tive research, when you talk to the human beings, when you’re watching them or doing ethnographic kinds of research where you’re watching them behave in certain situations, people do weird idio- syncratic things. They go off on tangents. They do things that are illogical. In many cases those are deep, deep veins of insight. With qualitative research you can often ask more open-ended questions, so those open-ended questions can actually By Kay Corry Aubrey n Usability/UX Researcher n Usability Resources Inc. n Bedford, MA n kay@usabilityresources.net A Conversation with Dan Pink