Z at the zoo: a shift in perspective

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A few weekends ago, I decided to take my son to the zoo. Now that he’s old enough to actually appreciate seeing all the animals, it was a total blast watching his excitement over just about every animal there. We took our time at various exhibits, tried to follow the map to get to the exhibits he wanted to see most, and, before I knew it, the zoo was closing.

At one exhibit, the animal was a ways away from us, towards the back of the space, but still very visible.

At least, it was visible if you stood a little over five feet tall.

My son was looking around, listening to me call out, “There! He’s right over there!” He was confused, replying, “I can’t see it, Mom.” I kept replying, “Follow the direction of my finger!”

Finally, I bent down to put my head right next to his and, sure enough, drop about 12 inches, and all one could see was the railing of the fence. The animal was far enough away that it was obscured by the fence rail if you were about as tall as said fence rail.

Why would I share this on a blog that’s about market research?

In part because I found myself sitting with my manager a few weeks later, reviewing the next version of a study I manage, proud it was “only” about 23 minutes long.

I hadn’t been keeping up with conferences, tweets, posts, etc., from the market research sphere, and I’d completely lost my perspective on all the things for which I fought when I started this role a short year ago. Things like questionnaire length, questionnaire design focusing on being device-agnostic, even making sure that the questionnaire was serving one primary purpose, rather than trying to serve multiple stakeholders’ purposes all in one study.

My manager made a simple comment about the questionnaire being long, and I suddenly felt like I was waving my arms at potential respondents saying, “But this is great! We’ll get to learn so much about you! Can’t you see the point?” and completely ignoring their perspective of a non-device-agnostic, super long questionnaire, with, and I cringe a bit saying this, lots of questions being answered in one study.

So, as I start my second year here, I’m renewing my commitment to take some time every week to get back in touch with what’s happening the market research industry, and to remember the perspective of the respondent when using market research tools. Will you join me?

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