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As a commercial qualitative researcher you might find yourself struggling to make the case for an in-depth approach. At times like these you need all the evidence and allies you can get. For what is the proven worth of in-depth work? This is a mildly absurd question – yet one favoured by the reductionists – as they try to discredit subjectivity. Everyone knows that our deeper connections in life are the source of so many insights, growth and new directions – yet somehow this becomes ‘doubtful’ or ‘surplus to requirements’ in commercial projects.

Enter one such ally: Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling and Psychotherapy at Roehampton. What has he to do with market or commercial research you might say?

Well, it is this. There is a widespread assumption in commercial research that people are answering the question you just asked. And that one question can lead to another in a logical progression. But if you explore your own mind for even a moment, you’ll find that:

  • What was asked and what was heard might be very different things. The asker might think the question easy, yet the answerer has no idea what kind of answer is expected.
  • The asker might assume that the question is neutral, yet the answerer picks up a very strong sense of preference/bias from the questionner’s voice.
  • Any participant in the exchange might suddenly get distracted by the thought that they left the kettle on or the car unlocked or that they might be late for the dentist.
  • Sometimes people are inclined to an in-depth answer but afraid of revealing innermost thoughts in a situation with strangers.
  • Everyone is more concerned about what the people around them might think if they say something, than about the sales of any brands or items.
  • We are all constantly disrupted by interrupting thoughts: ‘does my bum look big in this?’ is the comedian’s brilliant evocation of this aspect of our minds. I wonder what equivalent question you ask yourself with regard to how you come across to others? Inner worlds are not very logical…they are emotional.
  • You do have experiences of when you felt you got to the bottom of things, really said it like it is, told the truth about something, someone or somewhere.

So given the vicissitudes of the mind and the distortions that are present, particularly if there is uncertainty in the situation, it makes sense to create a space where people can work in as uninhibited way as possible – reading both the surface and other levels of their minds.

What is the science or profession that has the greatest amount of experience of the best way to produce reliable in-depth information? Why, psychotherapy of course. This is typically a situation in which people engage in a dialogue to get to the heart of the matter – whatever the matter is. This field is Mick’s area of expertise and he is both a researcher and educator in this arena. We have learned a great deal from him!

Try his book at the link here, http://tiny.cc/fqjx7w

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues