Conversation (n. kon-ver-sey–shuhn): informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy
Researchers from a variety of disciplines have been trying to find out what people really think for…well, for as long as they’ve been doing research. Whether it’s surveys, focus groups, or interviews, there’s no shortage of methods for trying to get past the defenses people put up and get down to the core ideas and beliefs that really inform their behavior.
But all of these approaches are undermined by a common characteristic. No matter how well designed the survey or how well moderated the focus group, the exchange that takes place is ultimately between two strangers. Even a good interviewer runs into this problem. Sitting down and talking to an interviewer is ultimately a formal experience of sorts. People don’t typically sit down across from one another while one of them asks questions and the other one answers.
In short, it’s not a conversation.
And it’s conversations that have the power to deliver the insights you’re really looking for.
Why Conversations Are Different
The key difference between conversations and other verbal exchanges like interviews or focus groups is their organic nature. Conversations aren’t scripted or predictable. They’re messy. They go in directions no one expects. They don’t follow a linear pattern, bouncing from one topic to a completely unrelated topic and back again without warning. No one moderates a conversation; it moves wherever it naturally flows without regard for expectations or agendas.
That very unpredictably is what makes them so important. Conversations are real, driven by what feels right in the context of the moment. Through a brief conversation, you can learn more about what someone thinks about a topic than you might find out through the most well-designed survey questions. That’s because people are more open and honest in a genuine conversation where they feel safe sharing their thoughts and beliefs. There’s no artifice, no couching words, saying what they think someone wants to hear or holding back for fear of being judged.
How Do You Start a Conversation?
If conversations are so incredibly valuable, why don’t researchers have more of them? The answer has to do with the first word listed in the definition above: “informal.” A UX researcher can’t sit down on the couch with a stranger, start asking them questions, and expect a genuine conversation to occur. Simply talking to someone in their living room isn’t enough to make the situation “informal.”
What it takes is a relationship.
People are more comfortable and forthcoming when they’re talking to someone they have a relationship with. It’s those relationships that form the basis for open and honest conversations that produce genuine insights. People say things to their friends and family that they would never say to a stranger, especially one who’s prodding them with targeting “research-focused” questions.
But the value of conversations is that they’re two-way exchanges. When two friends are talking, they know how to gauge each other’s reactions. They know when one of them is being totally truthful and when they’re being evasive. They call them out when they make mistakes and know what to say to keep the conversation going. Without a relationship to lay the groundwork, it’s almost impossible to have a real conversation.
At Motivate Design, we’ve put a lot of thought into how to start conversations. What we came to realize throughout our research was that traditional UX research comes at the problem from the wrong angle. Or rather, the questions are coming from the wrong people. Spending time, effort, and money coming up with the perfect questions usually winds up producing the same results because it’s recreating the same predictable interaction rather than sparking a genuine conversation.
So we tried something different. What if instead of trying to start a conversation, we found a way to leverage existing relationships and open a window into authentic dialogues between friends and family? What if we could draw meaningful, actionable insights from those conversations?
That’s what our Insider Insight methodology is all about. We’ve assembled a worldwide “Insider Collective” comprised of listeners, thinkers, and doers from all walks of life. Starting with the questions we want to know, they connect with the people in their lives and engage in genuine, unfiltered conversations to uncover what people really think. After recording those conversations, our team of UX researchers goes through the results to identify authentic insights and craft them into compelling stories that help us better understand people’s thoughts and motivations.
It’s a revolutionary approach to UX research that provides us with a glimpse into the ways people actually think and feel. Armed with this knowledge, designers can build better products and services to meet the wants and needs of users, and companies can find out if their efforts to relate to their customers are on track or misaligned. Faster and cheaper to conduct than traditional focus groups and interviews, Insider Insight is designed to deliver results that are surprising, and in some cases, even shocking. For companies and design teams looking to shake up their approach to user research, it could be the perfectly unorthodox solution they need most.
To find out more about Insider Insight and the power of conversations, reach out today to set up a sample trial. Bring the question your organization has been dying to know the answer to and watch how Insider Insight can reframe what you thought was possible in as little as 48 hours.