Patient Experience: When Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

By Debra Fin
Vice President

This provocative statement is attributable to Peter Drucker, widely regarded as the father of modern management thinking. In healthcare, strategy can be devoured by culture’s hunger for maintaining the status quo especially with the relentless pace of change occurring in the industry.

Culture is the way of life for a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. You know culture when you hear hospital employees state, “We don’t do it like that here” or management talks about “our way of thinking”. Culture is the soul and traditions of an organization and, most often, the obstacle to embracing change that focuses on the customer.

C-suite directives to improve customer centricity and focus on improvement of the patient’s experience can authorize CX leaders to gather patient data, hold focus groups and build touchpoint roadmaps. Armed with these insights and tools, operational changes are recommended, communications are built and new services are rolled-out all in an effort to meet the expectations of future patients, improve metrics and increase revenue. Everyone from Administration to Housekeeping waits to hear that patient experience has improved 5cscfby.

Only to find out that the culture on 3West devoured breakfast and is on its’ way through lunch!

Changing the structure, staffing and services of the organization will not suffice to improve patient experience based on patient insights alone. As our most recent Patient Experience case study demonstrates, the culture and values of the organization and its’ employee voices are vital to understanding how to meet the needs and expectations of patients. Equal time must be spent clarifying values, needs, and expectations at both the customer level and at the organization’s human capital level.

Engaging employees is as important as engaging the patient population. Doing both gives you a better eco-system view on how to achieve better service, meet expectations and empower employees to satisfy patients and families. Employees are the engine that delivers on your brand promise by meeting the expectations that define excellent patient experience.

Market research gathering employee insights and reactions to the ideas and expectations of patients can identify the barriers and best practices to delivering on a best in-class patient experience. Employees know how things really work and how to get things done; they can identify where the collaboration chain breaks down in bed scheduling and what families of inpatients really need. Best of all, collectively they have many solutions to improving their patient’s experience and want to be instrumental in creating both better health and better customer loyalty. All you need to do is ask them.

Armed with this 360° view, cultural mores and traditions can be addressed and both the patient and the hospital employee are equal partners in designing the patient experience solution.


Neuromarketing: Market Research’s Magic Bullet?

neuromarketing: market research's magic bullet?

By Artem Violety, Vice President

Exciting new techniques are emerging within the advertising and technology industries, creating fresh disrupters in market research and opening new doors to more opportunities and insights than ever imagined before. However, as with most new findings, additional research and confirmation is needed before these techniques become relevant and widely accepted.

One new field of study that has emerged is “neuromarketing research”- an attempt to leverage learnings from neuroscience to better understand the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli, and thereby better understand consumer behavior. I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel discussing the topic at the ad:tech conference in New York, held November 2-3, 2016.

The panel discussed how face recognition software could uncover consumers’ emotional states; how biometric markers, such as skin conductance, heartrate, and respiration could be used to detect non-conscious response to stimuli; and how brain imaging techniques, including functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) could potentially uncover consumers “true” reactions to marketing stimuli by measuring actual brain activity.

These techniques are obviously very attractive to marketers. Imagine being able to peer into a consumer’s mind and see how interested they are really in a product, or which of two marketing messages better resonates with them, all without having to rely on what they tell us.

Neuromarketing’s focus is on consumers’ “unsaid” thoughts, so in essence, their inner, unedited, potentially unconscious thoughts and feelings. This is generally called “System 1” or “Fast” thinking, and it refers to a consumer’s automatic response to a given stimulus; it’s a potentially vital aspect in decision-making but by no means the only one.

In contrast, more traditional market research focuses on what is explicitly reported by a consumer. This is called “System 2” or “Slow” thinking, and refers to the more deliberate, logical or conscious aspects of decision making.

As one can imagine, both types of responses are worth considering when trying to understand how the consumer feels about a product or service. Unfortunately, the excitement that usually accompanies a discovery of a new set of tools or techniques often overrides not only previously accepted learning but even basic logic.

For example, the notion that there is a metaphorical “buy button” in the brain that can be accessed via neuromarketing is promise boldly made by some practitioners. However, this claim is akin to those made by proponents of using hypnosis or subliminal messages in commercials – highly attractive but without much merit. Since the brain is an organ that evolved over a much longer period of time than humans have engaged in commerce, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for a “buy button” to be part of the biology of the brain. There are surely “approach or avoid”, “fight or flight” functions built in, but those reflect a need for basic survival, not the desire to buy a shiny new phone or another pair of shoes.

In order to be useful, neuromarketing research must be placed in the proper context – it’s a tool that can be used in conjunction with other traditional techniques, but it’s not a panacea for all marketing questions. As neuroscience evolves and is able to better explain human cognitive abilities, it will surely play a larger role in how we all conduct marketing research. However, it is unlikely it will ever completely replace  the need to actually talk to people in order to understand them, something we humans have a good deal of practice doing.


X, Y, Z … Boom! How will Changing Demographics Impact Corporate Culture?

Are you ready?

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

Full transparency: I am a baby boomer. Born right in the middle of the largest generation–until Millennials. For many of my generation, retirement is a dirty word; it’s an inevitability to be delayed as long as possible. As a group, Baby Boomers have been fighting aging since we turned 30! After all we weren’t supposed to trust anyone over 30 until, of course, we became 30 ourselves and realized we were just getting started.

All kidding and old jokes aside, the reality is that 10,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2029. Retirement has already started for many and isn’t that far off for more than half of the Baby Boom generation. My children, Millennials that they are, are probably saying “Finally! What’s taking you so long?” But the sheer volume of pending retirements is staggering and prompts the question how will the obvious “changing of the guard” affect corporate life?

Demographers and business historians estimate that Baby Boomers currently hold 56% of corporate leadership positions. Additionally, two-thirds of all businesses (about 4 million companies) are owned by Baby Boomers. Yet, according to a survey of Fortune 1000 employers, and of critical importance to business in general, 62% of Fortune 1000 employers believe that Baby Boomer retirements will result in a skilled labor shortage sometime in the next five years. In the next 5 years! How is this possible? What should people and companies be doing to prepare for a potential gap in skills? Are companies and their mid-career managers (Gen X and Gen Y) prepared for corporate memory to walk out the door?

Truth be told, with each generation there is always a need for new and fresh perspectives. Somehow it is a lot easier to swallow that new idea when you are on the younger end of the continuum espousing it rather than on the side that finds itself thinking “been there done that”!  Yet companies and managers are going to have to creatively manage the knowledge transfer required as the current generation of executives makes room for the next generation.

Partial retirement or flexible working arrangements–typically a two-year offer with reduced hours and benefits–is one way companies are exploring the retention of certain levels of management so their knowledge can be shared with those next in line for their pay grade. Reverse mentoring, popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welsh, matches senior executives with 20 and 30-somethings to share experiences. Reverse mentoring closes the knowledge gap for both older and younger age groups and can identity future leaders. Succession planning prepares others internally to assume key business positions. Encore consultancy – when a person “retires” on Friday yet returns on Monday as a part-time consultant for the job they just left – has caught on in some organizations. Are these enough? Are companies paying attention to what corporate life will be like after a generation of workers retire?

I distinctly remember going to my father’s retirement party. Lots of people I’d never met before talking about a side of my dad that I never really knew at home. It was quite enlightening to hear that your dad–the guy who fell asleep on the couch waiting up for you–was a person others looked up to and respected. I don’t think a lot of companies “do” retirement parties anymore. My dad worked for the same company for 37 years. That kind of tenure is almost unheard of now. When I retire, even though I’ve been in the same industry for over 30 years, I’ll have worked at the same company for about 12 years. Certainly not worthy of a full blown celebration. But party or no party, over the course of the next fifteen years, one very large generation, used to setting standards for how things get done (Baby Boomers), is about to retire and be replaced by an even larger generation (Gen Y/Millennials) in the early to middle stage of their careers. Are we ready?


Oh The Places You’ll Go With Virtual Reality!

Oh the places you'll go with virtual reality!By: Cory Kinne, Research Analyst

You don’t have to be a tech nerd to know that Virtual Reality is cool. It just is. There’s a reason it is always cropping up in fiction—from early sightings in Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man, to the smash-hit Matrix trilogy and beyond. The idea of transporting ourselves into a simulated world is intoxicating.

Excitement over Virtual Reality (VR) reaches a fever pitch in the realm of video games. Allowing players to visualize themselves in the worlds they are exploring opens new doors for immersive storytelling. Possibly no other industry is positioned to gain as much from advancements in VR technology as the gaming industry, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have utility elsewhere.

After spending an evening playing with my new Google Cardboard headset, I stumbled upon a question: How might VR be useful in Market Research?

Thousands of dollars are spent on product evaluation clinics, especially in the automotive industry; finding an appropriate sized venue and arranging the delivery of vehicles carries a hefty price tag. What if a clinic could be conducted for the cost of shipping a box of VR headsets and the booking of a hotel conference room?

Obviously, examining a 360 degree rendering of a vehicle will never replace the richness of the traditional, more tactile in-person experience. But is there value to be gained from the agility and simplicity of VR? For example, could insights be uncovered earlier in the design process? Could VR technology minimize the likelihood of unforeseen flaws making their way to the finished product?

Of course, we shouldn’t limit our thinking to the automotive industry—there are other areas where this technology could be useful. It is possible VR will open doors to new areas of Market Research, areas that are currently unexplored or, at the very least, underrepresented.

Imagine working with a hotel chain during the construction of a new property—using a VR headset, respondents may be able to explore a digital mockup of proposed room layouts and designs. With the exception of bed comfort, nearly everything could be evaluated! Feedback on room size, color schemes, furniture design, space utilization and even the artwork on the wall could help ensure the satisfaction of future guests.

The history of VR is filled with bumps and bruises, but with an unprecedented number of products entering the market it appears that virtual reality is here to stay. Though the technology is clearly in its infancy, it may be prudent to speculate about its future utility—further progress in availability, usability, and realism has the potential to revolutionize how we conduct our research.

Who knows the places we’ll be able to go…


8 Ways to Think like a Market Research Anthropologist


8 Ways to Think like a Market Research AnthropologistBy: Erica Ruyle, Lead Anthropologist and Vice President, Qualitative Solutions

Much to my wife’s annoyance, my brain never shuts off. We will go to a movie and I will practically be bouncing in my seat as my brain works through all the cultural messages and implications of the experience.  (So we are all on the same page, I define culture as “the patterns of behavior, thought and feeling that are learned, shared and transmitted across generations.”)  Following the movie and dinner I inevitably babble on about the theories, connections and other positing on the film.  After all in the world of an anthropologist, everything has meaning, a hidden “other” so to speak.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, my favorite few hours of the entire trip comprised of me sitting in the hotel’s casino, sipping dark, bitter coffee and watching people. Were they there on business or pleasure?  Where did they come from?  What was their link and connection to the people around them; what relationship did they have with those they were drinking, eating, and talking with?  I would draw up entire kinship maps and sketch stories of their life and then give meaning to it.  I would watch their interactions and movement throughout the hotel and casino floor, while my brain worked the patterns and behavior around me. As the old idiom goes, “this is both a gift and a curse.”

As you can see, being an anthropologist means having boundless curiosity. My mind is constantly shuffling information around regardless of which of the five senses it comes from.  Far too often we tend to focus on the words and miss other subtle cues around us such as body language or not so subtle cues that can easily be overlooked such as the material culture around us. As an anthropologist this works to my advantage as we are trying to find patterns of meaning in structures and systems.  Culture is an endless layered facet of the human condition and looking beyond we begin to understand the behavioral and symbolic meaning that drives people is what we do.

With years of training I have learned how to hone my skills to not only see what is around me but also how to talk in a meaningful way about what I have learned. My favorite aspect of ethnography is bringing to life what I experienced.  I’ve done my job when a reader can feel as if they were actually there during the research; they can feel what the research respondent felt and take a peek through the lenses of their eyes.  Of course, this does not always transfer well to market research deliverables but it is all part of the process.  My job is to bring the consumer and their world to life in an actionable way that makes sense.

Even if you are not an anthropologist or do not have anthropological training, you can still think like one. Anthropologists study people and their culture. Everything in market research is based on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of groups of people.

There are eight ways that you can think like an anthropologist for any research project, even if it is not ethnographic /anthropological in nature. Follow these and you are well on your way to thinking like an anthropologist!

  1. Stay on the move
  2. Keep your eyes open
  3. Always be curious
  4. Challenge your assumptions
  5. Ask a lot of questions (to your respondent and yourself)
  6. Dig deeper
  7. Engage multiple point of view
  8. Don’t believe everything people say

In a coming blog, I will delve more deeply into the slippery notion of culture. It is essential to grasp, even if not explicitly used in market research. I will outline what the benefits are to having this knowledge and how it can help you get more insightful, meaningful analytical results, further supporting your research efforts.


Market Research Methods: A Lesson in Market Research Anthropology

Market Research Methods: A Lesson in Market Research Anthropology

By: Sara Beauchaine, Marketing Associate

On April 20th at 1:00 pm, Morpace is offering a free webinar hosted by our own expert anthropologist, Erica Ruyle to uncover some uncommon market research methods that can be used to derive impactful insights. During this webinar, attendees will learn to look at research differently, find out how to apply the anthropological mindset to qualitative research and learn how to add another layer of depth and insight into the analysis process.

Morpace also offers other avenues for qualitative research. You can learn more about our market research methods by visiting our website.

Q: How does anthropology play a role in market research? To what extent?

Erica: Within market research (MR), our clients are always trying to understand the ‘essence’ of the consumer. They want to understand what makes consumers tick and in what ways they can continue to meet their needs. Anthropologists study people and look for patterns. They look holistically at all the elements that make people who they are—they study culture, which includes both conscious and unconscious factors that drive people to do what they do. Many times, we as humans don’t even know why we are making the decisions we are, nor can we articulate the reason behind our decisions if someone asked. Anthropologists look to uncover unconscious drivers of behavior which can lead to recommendations of unmet needs, white space or new product and service designs. There’s a funny saying about anthropologists: “We solve problems you didn’t even know you had.” While tongue in cheek, this is at the heart of what we do. We are able to gather information about consumers in ways that other researchers don’t.

Q: Why is anthropology an important market research method?

Erica: Not everything in market research can be answered through linear quantitative questions or via a straightforward Q&A style of discussion, which is commonly seen in focus groups. When someone is asked, especially about something that might be difficult to verbalize, people give the most socially acceptable answer. It might not be true, but if they think it’s what they are supposed to say, they say it. In addition, you can’t rely on recall. Stop and ask yourself right now: “What did I eat for lunch 2 weeks ago today?” or “What settings did I use the last time I did laundry?” Much of what we do becomes automatic muscle memory. If I asked you to tell me to describe exactly how you interact with your car during your day, how would you answer? I’m sure you can answer it, but I can guarantee you’ll leave out important details or things you do. This won’t be on purpose, but simply because you cannot recall them or you don’t think they aren’t important.

Anthropology helps us understand the consumer via immersion and enables us to look at things through multiple lenses. Our toolkit has a number of creative methodologies, as well as deep observation.

Q: What knowledge do you have that contributes to your expertise in the area of anthropology?

Erica: I have an M.A. in Anthropology and have worked in the market research industry for more than 10 years. I am what is called an ‘applied anthropologist.’ This means I use the theory and principles behind academic anthropology and apply those to actual issues and/or questions within market research. I studied consumer and popular culture and lived in Japan prior to starting my graduate work. I’ve written articles on ethnography in market research, spoken at conferences on new methodologies, and even conducted past webinars on how to conduct and analyze ethnography in market research.  

Q: Do you have a story of when you used anthropology in the field of market research?

Erica: A few years back, I was conducting ethnography on boys’ action figures. We were in homes, as well as in stores. We started in the homes and talked with the young boys in their own environment, and had them show us the things they play with and demonstrate how they played with them. The client wanted to focus only on the boys themselves, but as an anthropologist I knew they didn’t play with, and/or make decisions on what toys to play with, alone. It was something very much embedded in a strong family dynamic, especially in cases where they had brothers or sisters close in age. By understanding the family dynamic, I was able to provide much deeper insights into how decisions were made and what the reasons were for playing the way they did. Furthermore, I was able to overlay a ‘theory of play,’ which highlighted the importance of play at both a psychological and cultural level.

Q: What key topics will you be focusing on during the webinar?

Erica: The webinar will be a look into how anthropology is best used within market research from project inception to data analyzation. The reality of how you apply something that has been so embedded in academia means understanding the realistic approaches you can take in a quick-turn environment like market research. We’ll be discussing what it means to look at market research through the eyes of an anthropologist, provide ideas on how to conduct applied anthropological research, and most importantly, how best to do ethnography that goes above and beyond the traditional thought of ‘in-homes.’

Q: What do you hope to convey to those attending the webinar?

Erica: That anthropology isn’t just for long-term projects that require you to travel around the world. Anthropology provides a different way of looking at how we not only conduct research, but how we analyze, find insights, and ultimately make recommendations. Adding ethnography or anthropological principles to research projects in a variety of ways means getting at things you otherwise wouldn’t.

Q: Anything else you would like to add/draw attention to?

Erica: While best known for ethnography and its participant-observational approaches, an anthropologist mindset can elevate just about any research project. It’s a way of thinking that can be used on a regular basis to provide additional insights to a wide variety of projects. Today, everyone says they do ‘ethnography,’ but the reality is they are just conducting interviews in a different setting. Anthropology means not only looking at things differently, but it also requires you to analyze it through the anthropological lenses.


What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?


By Donna Taglione, Vice President

A recent project reminded me that we all learn from our own life experiences. Earlier this year I moderated a series of focus groups with people who had retirement investment products – Roth IRAs, 401Ks, and brokerage accounts. These groups were segmented demographically by age.

Some groups were with people in the early phases of their career trying to balance retirement savings with new house purchases and babies. Others were mid-career, worried about their own savings but mega-concerned about how to save for their children’s college education. Still others were divided into two categories – five years away from retirement and those recently retired.

The most interesting question I asked during these sessions was “what advice would you give your younger self?” Having listened to some heartfelt responses across the groups, and having read posts in the Huffington Post, on the BBC, and even E!Online, all of which asked versions of the same question, I decided to do what market researchers do best and ask a broader group – our staff – the same question.

Generationally, we have all the major demographic segments covered at Morpace: Millennials (1982-2004), Gen X (1965-1981), Boomers (1946-1964), and a few on the youngest end of the Greatest Generation (1930-1946).

What I learned was interesting…

My financial focus group participants overwhelmingly advised “don’t underestimate the power of compounding,” not surprising given the topics we covered. In other words, invest as much as you can beginning with your first job – you won’t miss money you don’t see. It was their version of the Ronco advertisements touting “set it and forget it!”

The overarching theme from my Morpace internal query was gratitude. Regardless of age, Morpace employees advised their younger selves to appreciate what they have in the moment. This appreciation might be for something as simple as free time – the ability to come and go as one pleases before the demands of a job, a partner, and/or children. It certainly includes appreciating family, especially grandparents since they love nothing more than spending time with their family.

Directly linked with gratitude was kindness to one’s self and others. Kindness includes not only being nice, but standing up for those that are picked on. Most everyone can recall a middle school or high school group that left them feeling excluded and, with the wisdom of hindsight, realized maybe the “cool clique” wasn’t so cool after all.

Gratitude and kindness were followed closely by versions of “this too will pass.” There is an old expression – the rearview mirror has 20/20 vision – meaning everything is clearer when you can look back on it, when the drama of the moment is replaced by perspective. Several mentioned learning the benefits of patience – patience to let dramatic situations play out without jumping to conclusions – of learning to pause, reflect, and wait before judging a person you barely know.

Confidence and trusting one’s own instincts are important pieces of younger self advice. We must learn to own our decisions – the good, the bad and the ugly – acknowledge what happened, and move on. Things are not always someone else’s fault.

Interestingly, there is a longing for some youthful chutzpah. Moving away from home – you can always come back. Trying a different career. Taking chances. (I loved this one: “Dye your hair the funkiest color imaginable. If you wait until you’re in your 20’s to do it, it won’t fit with your job. And if you wait until your 80’s, people will think you are senile!”)

Our collective advice to our younger selves was to be less concerned about failing and become more fearless than fearful. We’d all be wise to think like Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work!” – or to remember Henry Ford’s advice: “Failure is simply the opportunity [emphasis added] to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Whether financially, as in my focus groups, or in life, fearing less seems to be good advice regardless of age. Our younger selves might have benefited from that advice, but our current selves can too!


Morpace Omnibus Study: Vehicle Buying Remains King Among Consumers, While Leasing Lags

vehicle buyingIn 2014 more than 16.5 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S., the highest since 2006.

As statistics show, U.S. consumer-spending habits are increasing – a sign that the Great Recession of 2008 is finally behind us.

Last year also showed the highest rate of leasing in more than a decade, according to a recent New York Times article. It states that vehicle renting is experiencing a growth in popularity in a world where having monthly payments for everything is the new norm.

But according to a July Omnibus study conducted by Morpace, while leasing a vehicle is becoming more popular, U.S. consumers still prefer buying a new or used vehicle.

In a July 2014 study, out of 806 respondents, 46% planned to purchase a new vehicle, compared to 6.6% who planned to lease. Additionally, 45.9% planned to purchase a used vehicle, compared to only 1.5% who planned to lease.

And the figures barely budged in 2015.

Out of 889 respondents, 48.5% now plan to purchase a new vehicle, as opposed to 7% who will lease, according to our recent July Omnibus. And 42% plan to purchase a used vehicle, with only 2.6% planning to lease.

While vehicle leasing has a marginal increase from last year, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the hype that many media outlets are reporting.

Vehicle buying dominance may, surprisingly, come from none other than the Millennial generation. In a survey launched by Elite Daily in October of last year, nearly 71% of Generation Y would rather buy than lease a vehicle. Also in that same survey, 43% of Millennials say they plan to purchase a vehicle in the next five years.

Finally historical Omnibus data found that, out of 1,000 respondents in July of 2014, 45.9% plan to purchase or lease a vehicle in the next one to five years. That number only dropped .6%, to 45.3%, in July of this year (out of 1,004 respondents), suggesting that the vehicle market will remain in steady demand in years to come.

It remains to be seen whether leasing will increase in popularity in future years. But for now, buying new or used remains the popular choice in the automotive market today.


Three Ways to Quickly Communicate Your Message With Data Visualization

By Dustin Lock, Senior Graphic Designer

Data Visualization


The sheer amount of data generated in the big data world is immense—IBM estimates 2.5 quintillion bytes are created every day. This data tells a complicated story, but it’s hard to get this information across to busy C-suite level executives who don’t have the time to read through an information-dense report.

How can you get critical data seen to create better-informed decision makers? Use data visualization. With 40 percent of people being more responsive to visual information than to plain text, data visualization that includes infographics, simple imagery, and creative charts helps your information make an impact. At Morpace, we’re helping customers leverage their data to create better stories on a daily basis. Here are three tactics we employ to help communicate messages and strategies with data visualization.


Infographics combine related data sets with an attractive layout. Key points from your research are arranged in a way that attracts attention and encourages sharing. Short descriptions explaining each statistic provide important context for the readers, without overwhelming them with extensive supporting data.

The infographic may also generate interest in the more extensive report the information comes from, especially once the reader understands the value of the presented data. The design should present the most important and attention-grabbing statistics and quotes, with an easy-to-read font and graphics relevant to the information provided.

Simple Imagery

A weighty report filled with essential data points is loaded with important information, but is bound to lose the attention of a busy audience. Simple, relevant imagery breaks up the text volume and adds an attractive visual to the page.

When choosing simple images for data visualization, use pictures and illustrations relevant to the information being discussed, whether in a direct fashion or through an abstract connection.

Creative Charts

Creative charts in reports provide a visual way of grasping the information presented by the data. Charts improve data comprehension by making it easier to understand the relationship between data sets, as well as presenting the data in an eye-catching manner. Mark the related data sets so the charts provide a clear relationship between data points, and position them near the relevant research for easy reference.

Data visualization makes it easier for your data to be seen and understood by C-suite level executives who need this information for effective decision-making. Use multiple visual content strategies to tailor data visualization for your audience and make data comprehension easier.

Are you using these tools as part of your communication process? What tips and tricks would you add to this list?


Shift Focus From Creative Types to Engaged Types

Using professional camera

By Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

During the week of June 15, 2015 I had the privilege of going to the Creative Education Foundation’s (CEF) creative problem solving conference (CPSI) in Buffalo, New York. This was my second time attending the conference in which I worked on honing my skills in the CPS creative problem solving model. Every time I use this model, or conduct training on the CPS model, it never ceases to amaze me the types of solutions that are imagined. Time and time again the process makes my colleagues and I realize that, yes we are creative!

If researchers can be creative, why can’t anyone be creative? I believe they can be, but that is not always consensus. There is inevitably a project that comes up that requests “creative” consumers for a qualitative session and asks for a battery of questions to “screen” for creativity. Before going to CPSI, I thought I understood what a creative type was – an artist, a writer or a designer. But since attending CPSI, I clarify with the client who they truly want to attend the discussion.

Why look for only “creative” types?

According to Dr. Gerard Puccio, the creator of the FOURSIGHT measure, there are four mental processes that are essential for innovation and creativity – Clarifying, Ideating, Development, and Implementation. And there are people who have stronger preferences for one of these mental processes:

  • Clarifiers revel in exploring challenges and opportunities, are all about the details and finding a clear definition of an issue.
  • Ideators enjoy “big picture” thinking and stretching their imagination with a variety of possibilities.
  • Developers like to take an idea into a fully realized solution.
  • Implementers enjoy seeing structured ideas turn into tangible outcomes. (FOURSIGHT, 2011)

One may look at the preference for processes and believe the “creative” types are the Ideators. Yes, Ideators can provide lots of ideas, however, are they going to be the concrete ideas you want or will they be too big picture to be actionable? If you want actionable ideas, perhaps a room full of Clarifiers, Developers, and Implementers is the way to go. However, that said, the “ideal” room of participants is one that has a variety of people with different preferences for each of the mental processes. One process, or the people who have a preference for one type of process, is not better than another.

Look for engaged consumers instead

So if recruitment should not focus on finding “creative” types, then what should it focus on? Engagement. Dr. Kathryn Jablokow, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Design at Pennsylvania State University, was inspired by the works of Michael Kirton, Robert Sternberg, and Teresa Amabile, to create the “Creative Diversity Model.” This model illustrates that creativity is diverse and includes four variables – creative level, creative style, motive, and opportunity (Jablokow, 2013). Both Dr. Jablokow and Dr. Puccio agree that there is not one creative style that is better than another. That is good news for recruiting as all potential recruits are creative! However, Dr. Jablokow contests that motive and opportunity – two variables that I believe heavily factor into engagement – are also key to a person’s creative contribution. I believe these two factors may be the most important variables to consider for recruiting qualitative sessions.

Jablokow explains that people are motivated for certain reasons and without proper motivation one will not provide the highest level of energy to their creative contributions. The idea around the opportunity variable revolves around a person’s access to a problem, or the person’s view of a problem as an opportunity to do something interesting, while others are indifferent to the idea. Having a room full of people who are creative, but don’t truly want to participate in the topic or solving the problem, makes the level of creativity dwindle. With sometimes only 2 to 3 hours with participants, we as researchers, need as much energy and excitement around a topic as possible to make a session a success. If you only look for creative types and have a topic that is uninspiring to them, you may get a very boring and uninspired group of participants.

So next time you’re faced with a project that calls for “creative” people, remember to take a deep breath and boldly explain to the client that everyone in the world is creative and what the project truly needs are engaged consumers. Now this may take some “creativity” to explain the research behind this theory in a manner that will enlighten the inevitable skeptic. But go ahead and be creative … I know you can!