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Product Makers Product Talks

Qualitative research: The science behind a part of product discovery

Timoté Geimer

On Thursday, February 23 Timoté Geimer joined us to talk about qualitative research and how product managers and leaders can set up a scientifically valid research method that supports their product discovery.

Key takeaways

  • Qualitative and quantitative both have a place in understanding customer needs.
    • Quantitative research is hard as it often requires a significant population size to get a clear picture. Teams often struggle to get enough data.
    • Product managers may often start with qualitative as it’s easier to grasp, to start with, and often cheaper and easier for teams to gain learnings about customer needs, problems, and opportunities.
  • There are various methods in qualitative including ethnography (embed yourself in their life), narrative (where you get your data from a few subjects and follow over time), phenomenology (take an event and analyze the event through different angles), grounded theory (most commonly used, build theory based on data collected), and case studies (gathering in-depth information about a particular subject).
  • For the session, Timoté dove into the grounded theory approach:
    • In this approach data collection and analysis happen simultaneously, data is coded and categorized and constantly compared, and the data is used to confirm or refute the hypothesis.
    • There are three main methods of collection — interviews (open, semi-structured, or structured), focus groups, and observation (incognito or in the open).
    • This process is empirical and iterative and your goal should be to prove your hypothesis is wrong, not right.
    • When choosing a sample, purposive (select sample with a specific intent), snowball ( start with one person and get that person to refer others), quota (find a sample of people that meet a particular profile/segment), and convenience (wait for people to come to you).
    • When interviewing consider saturation – the point in time when the collection of new qualitative research doesn’t bring any further new information or learnings – and stop when you fit this plateau. Be mindful of your saturation depending on the approach you use.
    • Triangulation is about looking at your learnings from different angles. It can help you enhance the validity of research findings and combining sources of data, both qualitative and quantitative, can bring new insights.
  • When conducting research we should be mindful of reflexivity (our role in the research) and biases that we can introduce. Check out the recording for insights into the 6 common biases that can happen in interviews.
  • Some steps and best practices you can follow and apply to your research when using grounded theory:
    • Problem framing – being clear on the subject of your research, the question, and hypothesis you are trying to invalidate
    • Method and sample selection – be sure to clearly identify your survey population, the scope, and how you will collect data
    • Interview kit – having one can ensure that you learn what you hope to know. Here you want to be flexible, adaptive, keep questions open, and follow a logical order. To speed up future research look to create a boiler plate that you can leverage for subsequent sessions. Interviews are there to help you uncover things you know you don’t know as well as things you don’t know you don’t know.
    • When running interviews be an active listener, let go of what you want to learn, encourage participants to say more, and anticipate and avoid biases.
    • Be intentional about documenting, deciphering, analyzing, and discussing your Fata and findings. Transcribe everything, code and analyze after interviews, and triangulate to constantly challenge and question yourself.
    • Make your research actionable by sharing widely and making your research actionable for peers and colleagues
    • Communicate regularly and often — use videos, quotes, interview snapshots, and share with others your key takeaways and learnings. Look for opportunities to share and involve others in your research.
  • Check out the video for some common pitfalls to avoid.