We live in the digital age where we’re constantly plugged in, using technology to listen, share, and communicate. One press of a button and we swiftly access an infinite amount of resources, tools, and information.
Answers to our questions are quite literally at our fingertips.
Need a quick dinner recipe? Google it.
Don’t know what “lit”, “fam”, or “bougie” mean? Bing it.
Wondering what our President said last? Just go to Twitter!
Can’t remember your friend from college’s sister’s best friend’s last name? Google it. (Or don’t do that, that’s weird.)
We use “googling” as a verb — it’s our safety blanket and go-to solution when we need to find an answer. It’s a place where we can hide when we don’t know the definition of “epistemophobia” or what “equivocal” means when our snooty ivy league family member uses it in a sentence at Thanksgiving dinner. Google is our collective lifeline being used for over 3.5 billion searches a day.
But how accurate are the results that pop up after you click search? How many of those trends or study results pertain to your business, to your consumers, to your innovative product or service idea? The truth is, the internet is filled with a lot misleading information and, while often helpful for everyday life, it’s incredibly harsh to navigate when it comes to answering big business questions.
So am I implying desk research (googling) to understand an organization and its consumers is a bad thing? No, but it’s not the only way to search.
What if I told you there was a better way to get answers? A way that allows you to get up close and personal. A way that will give you heightened confidence when you’re producing something new. A way that will open the floodgates to opportunities you never even thought of. A way that brings brilliant creative ideas to the forefront of solutions.
It’s a research method that digs deep into the behaviors, opinions, and thoughts of humans. The roots are performed by people like you and me everyday. Yet, it’s a method often left on the back burner. It’s qualitative research!
Have you ever sat at a coffee shop and watched people order insane lattes? Have you ever turned down the volume in your headphones to eavesdrop on the conversation happening next to you?
Observing, listening, asking questions — these are all aspects of research we do every day. But it’s not that simple. This method requires experimentation, sample sizes, methodologies, and tools to bring accurate results.
Yes, googling takes seconds, researching does not, but think of it like this:
You recently rang in the new year and your resolution is to start eating vegan (look at you, you young hip millennial!). It’s your first night out on the town and you’re faced with a choice, you can go to your favorite restaurant and ask the server (Google Search) to ask the chef to make sure your dish is completely vegan. You know the server pretty well and you trust they will relay the information correctly. Or, you can go to a vegan restaurant and sit in the kitchen to watch and ask questions as your food is being prepared.
You pick the latter.
As you observe, you see that your food is in fact 100% plant based, but you also notice that the main binding ingredient in your vegan burger is soy, and you HATE soy. So maybe you need to modify your resolution and replace vegan with “vegan soy-free.”
Relying on the server at your favorite restaurant is like relying only on google search: you run the risk of missing out on valuable details and information that can only be discovered through in-person conversations and interactions. When you Google search, you are trusting others’ experiments, knowledge, and information rather than a glimpse “inside the kitchen” – where you may find unexpected gems that could yield even more customizable and successful results.
With heavy reliance on the internet to connect with consumers, it’s important to note how powerful human interaction really is. A face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email according to a recent Harvard Business Review article. While many of us use email to communicate, we also rely on social media to voice opinions and interact with businesses. In addition to email, an unsurprising 90% of young adults are active on social media, according to a Pew Research study. But how authentic is this communication? “A facial expression, a tone of voice, a pause can reveal concerns that a social media post or tweet will not.” says Robin Hafitz, founder and chief executive of Open Mind Strategy.
It’s about leveraging the technology we have and finding new ways to connect at the human level to combine with data, bringing bigger and better insights.
In her recent article on Customer Investigations, CEO of Motivate Design, Mona Patel, talks about reframing the way we gather findings outside of Google search. “By reframing the way we view research and using thoughtful customer investigation, storylines emerge and provide answers that clients desperately need and by-popular-demand answers that may surprise them,” she explains. The more we embrace our natural abilities to interact with one another the better we will get at leveraging technology to create richer stories that drive profitable business results.
The future is digital but let’s not lose sight of the humans who created it and the meaningful interactions that we have with one another.
When both technology and human nature live in harmony with one another, the ability to create something extremely powerful is not only possible, it’s likely to happen.