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Let's Not Demonize Focus groups
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Let's Not Demonize Focus groups


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Nancy Frishberg advocates for rethinking focus groups to remove drawbacks of traditional focus groups, and engage participants and stakeholders with fun …

Nancy Frishberg advocates for rethinking focus groups to remove drawbacks of traditional focus groups, and engage participants and stakeholders with fun activities.

Published in: Business

  • Games, Gamification, Game Design are all becoming corporate norms, especially as social media begin to drive all sorts of marketing behaviors. Play, playfulness, delight - these are still a little edgy, but I promote them for that reason. :{)

    With all of that said, you are talking about something a little different but even in that context I am using these terms to help people understand that UX requires playfulness to promote its charter.

    Of course, we share too many genes for my opinion to have much weight - I bias towards the risky...
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  • Appreciate your watching and commenting.

    Will take the suggestion under consideration, also noting that the use of the terms 'Games' and 'Play' in the corporate setting are still risky, unfamiliar and not quite accepted. How do you refer in your settings?
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  • Nice.

    Okay. I accept the premise that **group** work can be effective. And I can accept the premise that the group **focuses** on something.

    Excellent points.

    I would still prefer to find a different name for what you are proposing given Focus Groups have a specific structure (as your setup suggests) and within that structure are wholly ineffectual.
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  • I’m Nancy Frishberg and I’m here to say: Let’s not demonize focus groups
  • What’s a focus group? It’s a qualitative research method that involves gathering a small group (6-12 people) with a moderator (perhaps that’s you) armed with a script of questions.
  • One of the dangers of focus groups is that one opinionated person can hijack the whole discussion, causing everyone else to go silent or just agree. Introverts are at a disadvantage in these kinds of groups.
  • The moderator is generating the discussion from the prepared script. So everyone talks to the person who asked the questions
  • Prepared script issues: • Ask questions, people talk to moderator • Prepared/vetted script often results from multiple people’s input; therefore may be intolerant/unappreciative of improvisation from script • Therefore, we miss anything outside of the questions prepared and asked
  • The clients are stakeholders from your client organization. In a traditional focus group they’re sitting behind a mirrored window, or listening on the phone. They may be listening to a recording of the session. Whether they’re remote in space or time, you have little idea whether they’re engaged. And typically they have little awareness of the non-verbal communication in the room.
  • “ Focus group” is a familiar term in the marketplace. Rather than refuse or reject your client’s idea, you should explore with them what they want to get out of it -- Embrace customer’s language. Perhaps your client uses “focus group” as a generic, to mean “that qualitative research you do – just do your magic.” Then figure out what problem they hope to solve or what question they believe a focus group can answer.
  • (vs. traditional prepared script)
  • I’m advocating that if you have the participants DO something first, you’ll have a more lively discussion afterwards. Everyone has the shared experience of doing the activity. Everyone’s engaged for telling about it. Now you can pull out that script and see if there are any issues that need further discussion.
  • Moderator as guide, facilitator, coach rather than gatekeeper.
  • Doing an activity reduces the need for a scripted discussion.
  • What to do about those clients? Put them. Train them to observe, beforehand. Get them to take notes. They’ll be engaged and focused on what’s happening. And eager to participate in the debrief following the session
  • Focus Groups that use a fun activity can and do yield useful results.
  • Transcript

    • 1.’s not demonize Focus Groups
    • 2. Focus Group = 6-12 people moderator script
    • 3. A lot of my colleagues don’t like “focus groups”
    • 4. 1Opinionated person dominates Introverts hide
    • 5. 2Everybody talks to moderator and not with each other
    • 6. 3Moderator works from a prepared script
    • 7. 4Clients sit behind a mirror or on the phone;no idea if they’re engaged
    • 8. Let’s reconsiderour condemnation of focus groups
    • 9. Client requests focus group? Explore the possibilities
    • 10. You can turn every drawback with fun activities
    • 11. Participants DO first,then TALK
    • 12. Moderator: guide, coach, facilitator
    • 13. Activitiesreduce needfor scripted Q&A
    • 14. Client in the room, trained to observe
    • 15. Focus Groups + Fun Activity =Useful Results Learn more: