When the researcher embarks on the insights journey, the consumer is, expectedly,the “epicenter” of the investigation.
We think there is amazing potential in diverging from the epicenter (the point of investigation) to people, context and issues around before finally converging. It is almost like the king hoping to understand Hamlet through Hamlet’s friends!
We first put this idea to test on a project where we had to understand life of women in Jakarta. Prior to talking to women in Jakarta, we interviewed women from Jakarta settled in Singapore. We hypothesized that these women would be more sensitized to culture, value and other day-to-day issues/concerns of typical Jakarta women because they had something to compare to – and that’s women from Singapore and other countries they had met with.
To give them live context we had them chat with women from other countries in the same room. And within minutes the conversation got into comparing and contrasting lifestyle, values and attitudes across different cultures. And we were able to provide strong hypotheses before we studied the core target in Jakarta itself.
Let us consider PSM or Van Westendorp analysis as an example. It has probably never been applied to any situation other than pricing. We thought this was not fair. So we studied the context around which PSM was built and used. As we all know, it is based on the relationship between price and quality. Price signals quality but within reasonable bounds – too low a price triggers quality concerns while too high price deters interest irrespective of quality. And that’s how we hunt for an optimal price.
We applied PSM analysis to determine what could be the optimal number of merchants for reward redemptions that should be communicated by our client, a major credit card issuer. The business issue seemed to fit the PSM principles: Communicationg too many merchants beyond a point would make the annual fee too high while too few merchants risked the consumers not signing up because their favourite merchant was not part of the redemption list.
Applying our divergence/convergence philosophy to the philosophy itself, we ask – is it necessary to converge on the problem at all? Instead of studying the issue in detail with one tool, is there merit in approaches which trades off depth of one approach with the board perspectives offered by multiple approaches? In your next project don’t fret about quant or qual or IDIs or FGDs or observations or ethnography – try doing it all and then triangulate and converge!
Divergence before converging is sometimes misinterpreted for creativity. Creativity probably starts where the approach we are describing ends – and we are not ambitious in inspiring creative thinking via this one pager! So just how do you “diverge before you converge”? Well, you have to have the courage to challenge the norm, the curiosity to explore and the passion to make it happen. If you are a good researcher, you are probably doing most of this…or perhaps you need a trigger to unleash that capability and we hope this article has served that purpose.