SIX LESSONS LEARNED FROM LEADING 6,000 FOCUS GROUPS- RECAP

If you are following this six part blog, you know that the first three blogs discussed were Lesson 1: “Trust your own Judgment,” Lesson 2: “Put everything in Writing,” and Lesson 3: “You are only as Good as your Last Group.”  The list of all six lessons is presented below.

Lesson 1:       Trust your own Judgment

Lesson 2:       Put Everything in Writing

Lesson 3:       No one remembers the last group you led – you are only as good as your next group

Lesson 4:       Maintain research rigor not research rigidity

Lesson 5:       Laugh early – it will all be funny later

Lesson 6:       Learn to expect and embrace change

Here is a brief recap from Lessons 1-3: 

  • What does trust your own judgment mean?  

It means doing what you think is best right in the moment.  This can apply to selecting cities for focus groups, for deciding the order of questions in a guide, or how to host the debriefing after the research day is over.

  • What questions do I need to ask myself as I walk the research journey so I can trust my own judgment? 

Some sample questions:

  1. What is the study purpose? 
  2. Is there more than one purpose?
  3. What can be done in the time allowed and what cannot?
  4. Am I the right match for this project?
  5. What is the client expecting? 
  6. What do they not want?
  7. Is this project traditional or one that will require creative approaches?
  • What is the value of putting everything in writing?

It means being a good steward of the process of being a qualitative researcher by keeping track of agreements made with and for clients as well as having a record of the materials related to the project, such as the proposal / research brief, screener, moderator’s guide, description of stimuli used, and any materials related to reporting of outcomes.

  • What is the impact of this thought:  You are only as good as your next focus group.

 A focus group is a moving target – such as seeing archery bulls-eye targets on a train being pulled through an Olympic training camp. The archer lets loose an arrow, but he / she will need to factor in that the target is moving. Even if it lands on the target, the bulls-eye quickly moves out of sight as the next target appears. So, no one remembers how many you hit – they just notice that after 2 hours, your arrow quiver is empty. 

By the same token, no one remembers the details of the last group a moderator led. Heck, even the moderator cannot remember most of it!

 That means that every chance a moderator has in front of a client team is a chance to do your best work, support them by providing information for decision making and getting out of the way, so the voice of the consumer is what is heard and remembered.  

 If the focus of the discussion is on what the moderator is doing rather than what the respondents are doing/saying, then the focus is in the wrong place.  When a moderator makes the respondents the “stars” of the process, even a less than stellar moderator is doing a good job.

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