Good qual research is about looking beyond the obvious, perceiving & acting upon underlying facets, searching for different perspectives, incorporating creative methods etc. in order to come up with meaningful results.
I had an (allegedly) ‘simple’ encounter last week that summed all of this up.
On my way home I met a young girl who was lost. She was meant to meet her mum at her cousin’s house, after her piano lesions, but had lost her way. Being a mom myself, I offered help.
But, my grown up’s logic didn’t work. I asked for streets & places nearby, but instead got various details only relevant in a child’s eye: “… door with a fence …close to a kebab-place… ”. And, although her cousin had drawn her a street map, it only contained lines, arrows and crosses, but no address. Yet, as we walked a little, she recognized a large metal container and eventually found her way. Upon arrival, her mum was astonished “Lost? But it is so easy…”
There are many more facets to this; necessity of mobile phones, teaching problem solving, expectations towards independence, appropriate reactions, not talking to strangers etc. And overall, it turned into a rich and thought provoking experience for me, impacting on my daily research work, for example:.
Empathy and trust:
Teach children to trust their intuitions and approach credible sources (other mothers, shops) when in need.
OR: Identify & empathize with your target and trust what they tell you, but ensure authenticity via your recruitment!
Briefly ‘become’ someone else:
A kid’s mind is different to a grown up’s logic, but equally insightful (you look for the post code, they remember the fenced door)
OR: Build on your experience but be open to different lines of thinking – even if you have worked for 15 years in the category.
Accept different ways to Rome:
The girl’s mother and the cousin use different routes, and the girl got there eventually, via trial & error, deduction, walking and taking… OR: In the search of insights, actively aim for different approaches and– not just once you get stuck!
None of this is rocket science, but…IF you sharpen your senses, allow yourself to learn & apply this into your work, there is much to be found in a simple encounter.
My highlight beyond this?
I asked the girl if she played the piano for a long time. ‘Oh yes – for a very long time’ for about two months’. There you go.