A big data company connected to the world’s largest grocery store knew that its behavioral data on how people shop wasn’t telling a complete or compelling story. But they also knew that traditional qualitative research wasn't the right path for innovative insight. They asked us to help them create new research capabilities that layered ethnographic qualitative data with behavioral quantitative data as a new source of insight, inspiration, ideas and storytelling.
We went deep with the team to understand cultural norms, biases and “the way things work,” and found that the company thought of itself as evidence-based scientists. Behavioral data is big, pure and clean. Qualitative data was dismissed as small, messy and unproveable. To nudge the culture towards more openness to the power of qualitative data, we developed a year-long training and capability program through learning experiences and sense-making frameworks, to show how the combination of “big and thick data” can lead to deep insight and business breakthroughs never before possible in the company.
The company now has a staff of more than 30 ethnographically-oriented employees whose jobs include being “up close and personal” with people everyday, on the front lines. A deeper understanding of consumers is changing the company culture, and proving out that conversations with people, in the context of their real lives, is the only way to truly understand what moves and motivates people.