- Fear of Google surveys. Google surveys are simply a tool, and a tool is not research. For results from a Google survey to make sense, they need to be accompanied by a qualified researcher who understands what the appropriate sampling frame is, and how to best interpret the results so as to not exceed the level of validity offered by the tool. A tool without a qualified researcher is a prescription for failure.
- Fear of DIY surveys. Similarly, researchers have nothing to fear in other DIY tools, regardless of how much more flexibility they offer beyond the simple Google tool. A DIY study can have no more validity than the person who designs and administers the research. Poor sampling, poor design, poor analysis, and poor interpretation are all that will result from a DIY study that does not include a competent researcher. CEOs, brand managers, and marketing managers need validity and reliability not random chunks of data.
- Fear of new research methodologies. As social media research becomes a generally recognized methodology, and gamification starts to become more recognizable, some researchers are hunkering down into their faithful and familiar methodologies. New is unknown. New is risky. New must be feared. Well, new must be feared if you are prepared to watch your business slowly whittle down as other research companies step in to offer those new options. Don’t be fearful. Get in on the action. Learn the new and how it can make your existing offering even better. There’s much good to be found in the new.
- Fear of losing norms. By trying a new methodology, any study on a tracking or templated design is bound to lose all normative data. How terrible. How terrible that you’ve decided to maintain old, less valid, and less useful methodology than create new norms. Be prepared to fear the day when your results cease to make sense because they have lost all validity in the new world.
- Fear of saying no to a client. 60 minute surveys, 30 items grids, 10 point scales, and more. We consistently hate on these things and yet those surveys get programmed, their response rates drop, and we complain about their data quality. Don’t be scared of your clients. Demand quality on their behalf. Create a reputation of quality not complacency.
- Fear of statistics. I’m really tired of researchers, whether qualitative or quantitative, joke about being scared of numbers and statistics. There’s nothing to be proud of there. Actually, there’s a whole lot to be ashamed of. Researchers are supposed to know a lot about statistics so that we can be smart about how we use them, when we use them, how to interpret them, and when to abandon them. Stop being fearful and start being qualified researchers.
- Twinkies eBay: Hostess Treats On Sale For $200,000 Amid Twinkie-pocalypse Fears (jtm71.wordpress.com)
- The Day The Twinkie Died (geekalabama.com)
- The Twinkie Apocalypse Has Begun! (confessionsofapsychotichousewife.com)
- Twinkies On Sale For $200,000 (huffingtonpost.com)
I’ve done my fair share of webinar, workshop, and conference presentations. I’ve talked to groups of ten, a hundred, and three hundred people and there is usually an audience member with a point to prove. They’re skeptic of the topic, eager to prove they’re smarter than everyone else, or just keen to listen to their own voice.
They ask questions designed to identify flaws in methodology or logic, and force me to respond with answers like “You’re right, that is a problem” or “True, we should have done a better job with that,” or “Right, sentiment analysis will never be perfect.” But you know, those kinds of questions don’t scare me. Every research project that was ever conducted was rife with logic and methodology errors and I’m glad that researchers are picking up on them. That’s how the cycle of research works. Find a problem this time, fix the problem the next time.
Then there are questions from people who are keen about the work that has been presented and want to learn more about it. They’ve seen the tables and graphs that I’ve prepared. They’ve listened to the pros and cons of the methodology. They’ve seen the real life examples of misleading and poorly done research. With all of that information, they understand the good and bad of what they’re potentially getting into and they’re intrigued. Intrigued enough to ask that dreaded question.
Now first, you have to recognize that I am a researcher to the core. I deliberately chose to take every single research methods and statistics and psychometrics class in school, even going so far as to get special permission to take classes that were outside of my curriculum. Research methods was and is all I care about.
My problem is this. Every conference submission form and every followup email from conference organizers says you must educate and not promote and I wholeheartedly agree with those rules. I don’t want a sales pitch at a conference. I want to learn something new.
But then that horrible question gets asked. It comes in one of two forms. 1) “What software are you using to do this?” and 2) “How much is your software?” Anyone who’s seen me present can attest to my reaction to those questions. They immediately catch me off guard and I stumble through answers like an idiot. Answering these questions makes me feel like I am promoting and selling. Indeed, I feel that simply speaking in front of a crowd is a sales pitch.
Even worse, as soon as I’m asked to talk brands and money, I fear that people will distrust my research objectivity. I fear that people will disregard my passion for quality and honesty and see not the sense, but the cents. That, my research friends, is truly terrifying. But perhaps I’m over thinking things. Perhaps those questions are just nice compliments, confirmations that I’ve done the job I was supposed to do. Perhaps it really was a sales pitch, a sales pitch done the right way. But I still hate getting that question.
In the good ol’ days, after the invention of numbers, we did everything by hand – by paper, pen, and pencil. Math was hard but people got it. Over the years, we switched to fancy calculators and amazingly fast computers, but the math stayed essentially the same. Don’t be scared of it. Embrace it, work at it, you can learn it.
There are many ways to terrify people. Put a spider on their shoulder, make them stand close to the edge of a cliff, tell them you’re going to visit the in-laws (ftr, mine are great). Different people are scared of different things. There does, however, seem to be one fear that transcends other fears – the fear of statistics and numbers.
How did this come to be? Were our math teachers horrible people? I doubt it (though one of mine was and that’s a whole seperate post). Were we threatened with having to do extra math if we didn’t finish our brussel sprouts? Doubt that too.
Here’s my theory. Remember english class where you wrote a beautiful essay and the teacher gave you an A? That A didn’t mean perfect, it meant great job. However, you never got an A in math. You got an 80%. In other words, you got 80% right, and 20% horribly, horribly wrong. You failed at 20%. You sucked for 20%. Even though you did a great job, you still managed to screw up a lot of answers.
Math insists on having a right answer. It’s right or its wrong. It’s not a teachers perception of your thoughts and ideas and its not even a measure of how much they hate you. For, even if your math teacher hates you, if your answer matches what’s in the teachers edition, you got the mark and the grade.
It seems to be that, even though nobody is perfect, we are scared of situations where there is no doubt we are wrong. We seem to forget that everyone is wrong at one point or another, and we all have strengths and weaknesses.
My advice to you is don’t be fearful. Expect to make mistakes. Expect to forget formulas. No one is perfect and no one gets every math problem right.
Statistics can actually be interesting if you really to listen to them. TV commercials and other marketing materials use lots of bad statistics and they are a source of great amusement, at least for me. And, you will find that people who are okay around numbers are in high demand in the job market. That’s good enough for me!