How we listen matters
During the 90’s I was running around Asia listening to business executives about their needs for IT systems and support services. There were two main methodologies that I used, focus groups and one-on-one interviews. In the first, I sat behind one-way mirrors and observed executives, in the other I would engage them in a one-on-one conversation. Both were valuable, but the latter approach would always yield far greater insight.
The reason was simple. By being able to engage an executive in a conversational experience allowed me to adjust the questions based on their needs and their aspirations. As such, I could delve into both to understand what the pains were behind their needs and what the passions were behind their aspirations.
This is strategic insight.
It is very difficult to gain this strategic insight in a group setting because it is hard to have the laser-like focus you need to delve deep below the surface and people feel far more guarded when they are talking amongst their peers. On-on-one interviews are most effective.
But insight is what is critical for shaping effective strategies. If you can begin to find the commonalities of the needs and the commonalities of the aspirations and align your brand around those, a tremendous amount of focused, innovative energy has the potential of being released.
If this is all true, then we need to develop new ways of listening powered by new, web-enabled, tools.