By Julia Valletta
Frustrated by employees’ inability to develop creative ideas for advertising campaigns, industry executive Alex Faickney Osborn began developing methods for creative problem-solving in 1939. He began hosting group-thinking sessions and discovered a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of ideas produced by employees.
Much like Osborn, professional moderators today have techniques to help get their respondents thinking more deeply. In focus groups sessions, your respondents are your data. What they say is crucial. But from time to time, traditional questions and probes can sometimes fail to get deep enough into respondents’ perceptions, opinions, beliefs, attitudes – or POBAs. This is because sometimes, respondents do not have a way to verbally access their POBAs.
Here are a few of my favorite alternative ways to dig deeper during a focus group session:
• Deserted Island. Describe the scenario to your respondents (have them visualize or use pictures) – Imagine, you’re being marooned by pirates to live on a deserted island, and you can only bring 10 items. What items would you bring with you, what items would you leave on the shoreline in the event you are rescued, what items would you drop into the ocean to never see again? This exercise allows the respondents to compartmentalize items/attributes (or whatever is being tested) by importance and value to them.
• Bullseye. Print-out a bulls-eye, or draw one on a large piece of paper. Stick it on the wall or an easel, and provide respondents with sticker dots. Ask a question or read a statement, then have respondents place a sticker on the bulls-eye in regards to how they feel about the statement/question or how best the statement/question describes an item, new product, etc. Allow for discussion time after. This technique will also help moderators in reporting phase to more accurately describe how a question/statement resonated with respondents.
• Happy-Crappy Scale. As moderators, we want to stay away from quantitative methods in our qualitative work. Enter, the Happy-Crappy Scale. Based on the traditional Likert Scale, the Happy-Crappy Scale shows a sad-feeling face at the bottom, and a happy face at the top, with a line connecting the two. Respondents can react to a statement, question, new product, etc. by placing a sticker dot anywhere on the scale. Allow for group discussion after. The purpose of keeping the middle of the scale blank is so that respondents don’t have to feel corralled into “feeling” a certain way. There can be many feelings between crappy and happy, and so we want to represent that in the scale.
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