People are people. They aren’t customers, consumers, target audiences, segments, or low-hanging fruit. They are people with the kinds of joys, concerns, fears, and worries that real people have for their families, their livelihood, and their well-being. When we talk to a person as a part of a project, whether interview, group discussion, or a visit to a private home, that person—the person we are talking to—is the most important person in the world.

The reason is simple: Real people are interesting, and they hold the key to solving many of your business problems.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Qualitative research is not quant, and quant is not qual. There isn’t really such a thing as qual/quant. They are, in fact, two different types of research with distinctly different goals. Qualitative research tools are put to best use when digging into emotional territory to gain insight into human behavior.

This special territory is where we tap into a shared experiential space that’s difficult to measure with scientific objectivity; it is both art and science, drawing upon empathy and critical thinking to qualify the applicability of another person’s beliefs and feelings.

Quantitative research, by contrast, is all about measurement. It tells us in broad strokes how individuals, when consolidated into larger segments of the population, have behaved, or will behave. Quantitative research can effectively describe behavior, but it does little to explain why the behavior occurs. In the best of all possible worlds we use qualitative research to develop a hypothesis to test in a quantitative setting. Qualitative explores possible answers. Quantitative identifies the best answer.

We spend our time thinking about the right questions to ask, because if we ask the right questions sooner or later the right answers are sure to follow.