Change in the Qualitative Research Industry

The following post is from Jim Bryson reporting from Day 2 of The Market Research Event:

Dan Heath gave a great presentation today at IIR’s The Market Research Event on implementing change in organizations. Dan is the author of Switch.

In proportion, Dan compares the rational brain and the emotional brain to a rider on an elephant. The rational rider thinks he is in control but ultimately, the elephant wins any disagreement. Therefore, to achieve change, one must:

  • Give the rational brain a reason to change and a direction for change. This is our typical business approach. We typically expect people to (1) analyze, (2) think and (3) change. But this simply doesn’t work because it ignores the emotional elephant.
  • Motivate the emotional brain. The mental model is (1) see, (2) feel and (3) change. For example, the FDA food labels would be more effective if, rather than listing the percentage of saturated and unsaturated fat, it read, “this product will make you fat.” This would actually stimulate change because it creates an emotional response.
  • Shape the environment. The shape of the environment encourages certain behaviors. Therefore, to promote change, create an environment that promotes the change you want.

So how does this apply to the qualitative research industry? Organizations are in a constant state of change and research is often conducted to direct and/or justify change. As researchers, we often know what change needs to happen, but we often justify it through numbers and then get frustrated when change doesn’t occur. We need to take the responsibility to encourage change through emotional and environmental as well as rational methods.

Leave a reply