Taking the time you need

I had the privilege of travelling in Costa Rica recently, which has long been on my bucket list and by far exceeded what I hoped it would be.

Whilst exploring in one of the many National Parks, something a guide said to me got me pondering on some interesting parallels in the consumer insight world. What he said was:

“The key to this is taking the time to slow down, to really look and listen, because so often when you see one thing you will see or hear two or three other things really close by”

Of course, this makes perfect sense and I had already noticed many people walking through amazing nature and wildlife, busily chatting, looking inwards and focusing on each other and their own plans, rather than what was happening around them. My guide continued:

“My job isn’t to get you to the end of this path, it’s to give you the richest experience possible, regardless of how far we walk”

And believe me, we saw a LOT!  (The photo by the way is a juvenile sloth that we were lucky enough to see coming to ground level to answer the call of nature; something Sloths only do about once every seven days!)

There’s a whole host of learning we can draw from the guide’s advice, but here are just a few of the thoughts this timely reminder brought home to me:

Unsurprisingly, restricted budgets mean we are all keen to get as much as we can from research and this can create the temptation to add more into the objectives or discussion flow ‘whilst we are there’.  Perhaps my guide’s words of wisdom are a useful reminder that if we push and rush too much, we risk missing things  (either in what people say, or in what we can see in their body language, even if their words are claiming differently) that could be important learning, insight or opportunity for a brand.

This also made me reflect on how we do the analysis and share learnings. We are great fans of ‘hot’ debriefs immediately after fieldwork where everyone (clients, agencies and researchers) all bring our killer thoughts and big ah-ha’s to the table on an equal footing, and on the understanding that they could be ANY kind of thought or realisation. While these kinds of debriefs were originally conceived to be more agile (aka faster) ironically, they are also a great way of logging thoughts from across a team who all come at the topic from slightly different perspectives.  The result is that they end up being broader than the specific project objectives – and this can actually help fulfil the role of taking the time to really listen and lodge thoughts that may otherwise have been missed and may prove relevant months or even years down the line

It also reminded me that it is all too easy when focusing on specific objectives to ‘miss’ some of the good stuff we hear along the way.  Sometimes revisiting projects (right down to the videos and transcripts) with fresh eyes and without the time constraint of a project deadline.   We find this can be very powerful in revealing insights that spark innovation in new and exciting directions.

And one final thought: when we do take the time to deliberately include broader, more open discussions in the topic flow, allowing consumers time to take a step back and reflect, they can often reveal much more how they really feel than we would otherwise hear, allowing us all the opportunity to reflect on the implications for the brand or product in question.

I would love to hear what crosses your mind about the benefits of slowing down to really look and listen, either in the comments below or email me at kay@lucidpeople.com