SIX LESSONS LEARNED FROM LEADING 6,000 FOCUS GROUPS

The previous blogs have provided insights on the first five lessons and this blog will focus on Lessons 6 – the final lesson learned from leading more than 6,000 focus groups since the late 1970’s.

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 but not research rigidity

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

Lesson 6:    Learn to expect and embrace change

I remember thinking, while in college, I want to have a career that is different every day – I don’t want to do the same thing all the time and be able to predict what is going to happen.  Some things I considered:

  • Becoming a doctor –different patients with different problems would fit my picture
  • Becoming a lawyer – I knew every case would be different
  • Working in the Peace Corps, in Thailand  – I knew every village would be different

However, I realized that a doctor had to do some pretty odd things to treat patients and that included looking inside their bodies – after the frog dissection in biology class, I thought, medicine is not for me.  While there were all different kinds of law I could practice, I realized that a lot of work that lawyers do is paperwork and that definitely didn’t appeal to me.  The Peace Corps almost won, but I got engaged my last semester in college and joined the Wife Corps instead.

As fate would have it, my first job out of college was due to the influence of my sociology teacher who was on the board of a non-profit company conducting research that would lead to better textbooks for children with learning disabilities.  They were looking for an entry level researcher to conduct surveys with parents and that sounded interesting so I took the job.  My job was different every day with some days in the field conducting research and some days in the office doing the analysis, and other days getting dressed up to meet the clients who were buying the research.  I loved the changing landscape and thrived on rising to the different challenges each day.

As my career moved along I found a wonderful niche in qualitative research that allowed me to work for different clients of my own company with some days on the road and some days in the office.

While I found ways to organize project work so there wasn’t chaos and I developed a 12 Step structure for moving from client request to final report, I noticed that not every project would fit my “templates” and not every client would do things the way I thought they should be done.

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