With the pace of our world being faster than ever, we often do familiar things without thinking very much just to finish as quickly as possible. That should give you pause – don’t you think that’s how a lot of people are responding to your research studies?

When I’m faced with challenges and need to really focus, I turn to music. It inspires me, invigorates me and provides the rhythm that keeps me moving forward. In thinking more specifically about it, I’ve found that there’s a lot to be learned about research from music. Let’s take a look.

You need a composer. Your research challenges need someone to write and organize the score. They need to have the knowledge of – and the art for – combining different parts that, together, will create beautiful music.

You’ll probably have other accompaniments that will influence your new research score; make sure your composer knows about them. They might include your internal practice band that will likely want to try the score before you bring in new musicians, or existing “beats” like syndicated research or ongoing studies that will play in the background.

From your input, the composer will provide the notations and symbols that direct your participants (the musicians) to deliver a harmonic result.

But, you’ll have additional considerations before even a practice performance can occur.

Determine how many soloists you want. Solos can be beautiful and moving but don’t represent the full harmony possible from a group. The other musicians are relatively hidden, softly providing background support for one strong melody.

Solos remind me of what often happens in focus groups. An outspoken leader emerges and other participants simply echo his or her sentiments from a supporting role. The others stop listening quite as carefully and the pressure is removed from the less outgoing participants who no longer need to worry about leading parts of the conversation. You may come away with answers but how confident are you in those answers if they’ve been greatly influenced by one strong voice?

Think about just how many soloists you really want and how they will influence the results of your qualitative research.

Establish your preferred tempo. Timelines are always a consideration in how you’ll approach the research challenge, so they’ll set your preferred tempo. If you have time, your tempo may be “adagio,” working more slowly, at a relaxed pace. However, if you’re crunched for time (and who isn’t these days?), your tempo is more than likely “allegro,” working fast, in a lively manner.

With several details sharply in place, it’s time for the most important decision – the selection of the musicians that will ultimately perform your score.

Identify the right group for you. You need the right musical group for your score and you’ve certainly got options. Do you want violins only, or is a full symphony orchestra a better bet?

If you think about this question in research terms, the “violins only” option is like using a target audience. Each participant is similar, perhaps in demographics or buying behavior, and bring a similar viewpoint to your challenge.

With a target audience, you’d probably link them to a quantitative survey online, the type of surveys they respond to all the time. With these surveys, participants often distractedly check boxes in response to what they see as a boring, and sometimes pointless, battery of questions. Mostly, they’re just glad when they are done so they can confirm their reward and move to their next “to-do.”

In your typical targeted quantitative survey, your general inclination is probably to ask participants what they would buy or what they prefer. In doing so, though, you will often experience inflated self-perception which leads to that dreaded over-stated purchase intent. Aren’t you trying to figure out how to eliminate that and to also more fully engage participants?

Perhaps you should try a symphony orchestra. In an orchestra, each musician has diversity of training and brings a unique talent to the group, but they all work together with their individual instrumental voices to collectively create beautiful music.

In research terms, your musicians are “crowds.” Crowds are often general population participants who self-select into your research based on perspective. They have diversity of opinion and each participant has their own sphere of influence. These are your musicians. And just like orchestra members create a collective melody to entertain the audience, these diverse research participants create the “collective wisdom” that will solve your business problem or challenge.

To use the crowd effectively, you’ll want to shift how you approach research design – because, just like musicians, crowds like to “play,” and that means removing the tedium of a regular survey.

Encouraging your musicians to play. People will participate in things that are entertaining. They love a problem or puzzle that takes some thought and consideration or a challenge that they can potentially win. These are actually the elements of “gameful design.”

By definition, gameful design makes non-game tasks more fun, more engaging and more motivating. And it’s already being successfully integrated into marketing research. To use it in creation of your own research score, think for a moment about the games you love to play and why. Here are some guidelines for building your own gameful approach:

First, take a fresh look at what you’re trying to accomplish and perhaps put on your creative – rather than your traditional research – thinking cap. Think about how you can reframe your research goals into a problem that can be solved or a challenge that can be won.

Second, think differently about your participants. Think of them as the varied musicians we’ve already discussed, musicians who have diversity in their spheres of influence that include friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances, all of whom may be members of your target audience. These musicians, your participants, often know members of your target audience and how they think on a more objective level than the members know themselves.

Third, make your participants feel like a member of a special community, your orchestra, rather than focusing on them as individuals. Let them know they are creating your collective melody, your collective wisdom. You’re asking them to think about a particular type of person, one from their sphere of influence, and they’re playing a part in orchestrating the prediction of what that person would do or prefer. It’s critical to note that we’ve found these types of social predictions to be much more accurate than someone’s own self-reported intent.

Fourth, give them a reason to keep playing beyond a typical survey incentive that everyone gets so they’ll truly stay engaged. Dangle a carrot of something special if their responses help to solve your research challenge. It should be your answer to “What’s in it for me?” Orchestras play for applause and accolades. People play games to “win,” so your participants need the opportunity to feel that satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.

Fifth, make sure they have fun. It’s one of the main reasons people play instruments and games, too. If your research feels more like play, your participants will contemplate their “moves” and they’ll stay more engaged.

It’s not a dress rehearsal. If you’ve not used it or heard of it, let me give you some examples of gameful design in action:

In the FourSquare app,1 users have incentives in the form of badges they can earn when they visit new and unique places. The information about where users visit informs the research behind the scenes that helps to develop customized content for others in specific geographic areas.

Crowdtap2 provides consumers a platform where they can interactively play and be creative while informing brands at the same time. For example, participants can compete against others to host the best brand-sponsored event.

Intengo3 has innovation solutions with gameful design, all using the collective wisdom of crowds. Its prediction market platform asks participants to play an investment game with virtual dollars, investing in concepts that they believe will be most appealing to the target audience. If they predict the winning concept, they receive a “dividend” of real money.

SuperBetter 4 is an app (and game) that builds real-life resilience. More than half a million players so far have used it to tackle challenges like depression, anxiety, chronic pain and more. This platform was created by Jane McMonigal, a world-renowned alternative reality game designer and inspiring presenter at TED Talks.

One last critical element for your orchestra: find the right conductor. While all of this may seem simple on the surface, it’s just like good music – it takes a lot of practice. The right conductor ensures that individual musicians are in tune, that they can see the baton, and that they understand the nuances of the musical score and how their part fits into the collective melody. And they make sure the tempo is right. Be sure to find a conductor who will lead the crowd to the best solution for your research challenge, meeting your tempo needs.

Just like musical groups, crowdsourced solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Some were born out of technology and a rarer few grew out of traditional research. The latter will offer you more seasoned conductors, people who have learned through years of experience how to get the crowd to harmoniously and collectively solve your research challenge. Go ahead, have some tryouts before you make your selection.

The finale. Hopefully, thinking of your research in musical terms has helped you think outside of your box. By asking “musicians” to play a beautiful, collective melody for an audience rather than just themselves, you have the opportunity for more engaged and spirited participants who provide deeper, more thoughtful responses.

So, for your next research challenge, why not find a seasoned crowdsourcing conductor to lead the orchestrated crowd in identifying your optimal solution? The results will be music to your ears and you may even find yourself taking a bow!


1 www.foursquare.com

2 www.crowdtap.com

3 www.gointengo.com

4 www.superbetter.com