Are you A Collector, or an Explorer?

This post was updated in January, 2020

Sometimes when we work on research with a client, they are very familiar with a specific kind of tool, or they have a strong understanding of how to understand a certain kind of data. Surveys are a good example. Most of us like the certainty of surveys – we can understand the statistical value of the data, the numeric nature of data makes good charts, and it can be organized and displayed in incredibly beautiful and insightful ways. When you use a survey, you’re a collector of data. Oh, you might add a few open-ended questions, but the bulk of everyday survey work is about things you know, and figuring out whether you can make a great discovery by connecting them, or organizing them in different ways, or by gathering new (but finite) facts. How many trees are in this photo? How often does the river overflow its banks? At what time is the light best for a photo like this one?

On the other hand, when you use qualitative research, it’s more like being an explorer. You don’t bother to guess what might be around the corner – you explore. You might do that observationally, by taking a walk in the woods or along the river’s edge, and taking photos, or making notes. Or, you could ask the person in the photo why they’re here. What led them to this spot? Have they explored here before? Are there things that might have been helpful on their journey so far?

The thing is, it’s difficult to be a collector and an explorer at the same time. The first requires precision, a certain fore-knowledge, and many data points to validate. The second requires a sense of wonder, an openness to the idea that the answers my not be easily quantifiable on a chart, but delivers a richness and depth of understanding that is hard to see  in a pie chart. Both are necessary, and each kind of understanding of your customer, your market, your operations, deserves your attention and care. When you have big questions that need answering, think about whether you need to be a collector or an explorer, and it will help you decide how to structure your research in a way that matches with the hat you’re wearing for this project.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. Our company name means “see everything”, because we help our clients see everything they need to know, to make better decisions. If you’re wrestling with the right kind of approach to get the answers you need so you can find, know, or keep more customers, we can help. For more ideas like this, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook – and if you want insights delivered direct to your inbox, you can subscribe by clicking the orange button, below. 

Start Here for Success

 This article was updated on January 16, 2020

“I’m buried in data. How can I make sense of it all?”
“When should I do research?”
“What’s the right way to answer these questions?”

Does any of this sound familiar? Over and over, we hear product managers, marketers, even CEOs, asking these questions. Over the past 19-plus years, we’ve helped hundreds of them get clarity by working backward from their end goal. This is the question we ask, to get started:

“What decision do you want to make?” or “What action can’t you take now, that you’ll be able to take if you have more clarity?”

Most often, if you can answer one (or both) of these, you’ll be in a much better position to map out the research you need. When you’ve answered them, you’ll know:

  1. When the decision or action must be taken (and from that, figure out how far in advance you’ll need to start the research).
  2. Whether you need to observe, have conversations, or do experiments to get the answers.
  3. What data is, and isn’t, relevant.
  4. Who needs to be involved.

You’ll be able to decide whether you can sort this out yourself, or if you need help. You’ll know if the answer needs to be quantified, with numbers (such as for a forecast), or if it needs a qualitative approach (getting your engineering team to see customers’ frustration as they try to use feature X). And you’ll waste less money, time, and effort getting something that’s useful, practical, helpful, and actionable. 

Whatever your questions, we’re happy to work with you until you see everything you need.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. Our company name means “see everything”, because we work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions that will help them find, know, and keep customers. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. For weekly insights to help you make better decisions, subscribe with the orange button, below.