The Need to Go Beyond Surveys
By: Emily Taylor
I was listening to a fairy tale with my daughter the other night. It was about a sad princess and how the king wanted to cheer her up. “I’ll paint the palace yellow, that will cheer her up!” he thought. The entire palace was painted yellow, but the princess did not cheer up. Thinking creatively, the king said, “I know, the castle must be the wrong shape!” and had the square castle pulled down and rebuilt into a heart shape. Still, the princess was sad. “Then it must be the cold weather here,” and he moved the entire castle to Spain, which in turn made the princess even sadder.
From there the story continued on about a contest to make the princess laugh, where the winner would be awarded her hand in marriage (side note, is that really how things used to work?!) but that is not my point in relaying this. What was going through my mind was, “Why didn’t anyone just ask the princess why she is so sad?!”
I see organizations make assumptions like this all the time with data surveys of their audience. “Our supporters are unhappy! It must be the color of our castle/website/etc., let’s change it!” To truly understand what is happening in people’s minds beyond the survey, you need to talk to them, understand their experience, and make it better.
But there is one more piece to this puzzle.
If you’ve tried asking people what they want before, I know you may be thinking “We asked them what they wanted, gave them what they asked for, and they still didn’t like it.” This is a key to understanding beyond data: people aren’t great at articulating what they want! There is an art to determining what people say they want from what they will choose when it comes down to decision-making time. This art is a combination of conversation and prediction and can be practiced through a process known as human-centered design.
At teenyBIG, we are passionate about this type of research and have mastered how to dig deep into what motivates people, bring in creative new ideas, and then use that information to test and iterate solutions to find what most motivates supporters within your resources. But you certainly don’t have to be an expert or outsider to start. Here are three ways you can make sure you’re thinking beyond your data.
Look for opportunities to ask “why?” If your data scores poorly in certain areas, start asking people why they think that. Is there a larger, underlying problem or are there small changes you can make to improve their perspective?
People can answer surveys differently depending on their cultural background. Perhaps they are just being ‘nice’ about something that upset them, or maybe they judge experiences with a more critical eye. Talk to a diversity of your supporters to find out more.
‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ is a serious-sounding phrase but it’s just a way to think about the functional and emotional activities that cause people to take action. What Emotional Jobs-to-be-Done might not come across in your data research? Are your supporters seeking inclusiveness, comradery, or accomplishment when they work with you? Ask them.
These tips for digging beyond data will help you break through dangerous assumptions that you might be making about your supporters – are they really unhappy because the castle isn’t yellow? Discovering the why’s and nuances behind your data will get you to the best solution more quickly – because the fastest solution isn’t always a straight line! And if you are stuck or unsure of what to do next, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.