Tag Archives: Hedgefoxination Perspective

Focused Group Dynamics

One of the best things about my job as a moderator is getting to create an atmosphere where a group of strangers feel comfortable enough to talk about a focused topic for a couple of hours.

It’s fascinating to be in the driver’s seat, gently nudging each person to give a point of view or express their opinion. And it’s just as interesting to watch the complexity of group dynamics in action. What a joy it is when the group interacts and expresses differing opinions in a constructive way, providing true insight. I believe this doesn’t happen automatically. Rather, it comes with a bit of finesse. While there are times when it’s necessary to go to more dramatic means to ensure cooperation and avoid group think, the following steps will help you get there most of the time:

1. Set the Stage’I believe people in most focus groups generally want to give you what you want’insight from their perspective. I also believe that people need ‘coaching’ many times on how best to do that. So, it is your responsibility as the moderator to properly set the stage. Tell respondents that you expect everyone to participate, that you expect them to have at least some differing opinions. Explicitly stating your expectations in the beginning will help you when you have to shut down the loudmouths and call on the wallflowers later in the discussion!

2. Be in Charge’you, as the moderator are responsible for the discussion thread. If you don’t manage it, someone else will. Do not be afraid to shift a respondent from an off-the-topic monologue. Time is not your friend in a group’you only have a set amount of it to extract insights. Therefore, keep yourself and your respondents focused on the objectives of the discussion. Again, be in charge of what you want to hear!

3. Use Non-Verbal Feedback First’this is especially important when gaining reactions to communication pieces or concept ideas. Get a quick read non-verbally by having participants write their opinions first. I also believe that structuring the verbal feedback process is helpful. Ask for positive comments first, then neutrals, then negatives. Structuring the feedback this way helps you stay on a path of constructive feedback rather than everyone jumping on a negative bandwagon.

4. Control the Loudmouth and Nurture the Wallflower’it is important to your clients to hear from everyone (if they all have something meaningful about the topic to say, that is’) So, again, it is your job as the moderator to ensure that the ‘loudmouth’ doesn’t overtake the conversation. You can do this by simply stating, ‘Thanks, I really want to hear from XXX.’ When trying to get the ‘wallflower’ to speak, it helps to make strong eye contact with them and when all else fails, call on them. ‘I haven’t heard your thoughts yet, XXX. Please tell me what you’re thinking.’ Specifically stating the respondents name who is not participating will usually at least get them focused in again.

April

Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making?

Last Friday, we profiled The Market Research Event keynote speaker Dr. Kathleen Vohs. Now we have the opportunity to bring you an excerpt from her book Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making? A Hedgefoxian Perspective. Here is Part One of the excerpt from her book. Look for part two later this week. In a perhaps overused metaphor, academics are sometimes classified as hedgehogs and foxes. Playing on a famous, albeit somewhat mysterious, statement by 7th century B.C. philosopher Archilochus that “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” the prototypical hedgehog is a “system addict” on a quest for a unified theory of everything. Foxes, in contrast, have an appreciation of the complexities of reality that prevents them from even entertaining the possibility of any grand unifying scheme. Belying their physical image, hedgehogs are the life of the party. They take outrageous positions and push their arguments to the limit, generating heated debate. Foxes, despite their slyness, are party duds; they stand on the sidelines shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at the naivety of the hedgehogs’ wild speculations. One more strike against foxes. As the party extends into the waning hours, however, the frantic repartee of the hedgehogs can wear thin, even to the hedgehogs themselves. That’s when the host begins to long for the arrival of a third species of party animal: the hedgefox. Hedgefoxes combine the best properties of their two mammalian relatives. Like the hedgehog, the hedgefox is a synthesizer, but like the fox the hedgefox cares about, and advances theories that take account of, and make sense of, the complexities of reality. If research on emotions is a party (and the explosive growth of the topic over the past few decades has lent the topic something of a party atmosphere), the time is ripe for the entry of the hedgefox. Research on emotions has made enormous strides, stimulated by debates between researchers who have taking extreme stands on a variety of central issues. There are hedgehog emotion researchers who argue for the primacy of emotions over cognition, and others who argue, instead, that all emotions are derivative of cognition. There are advocates of the idea that moral judgments are the product of emotion, perhaps justified ex post by reasons, and those who argue that morality is a matter of logic. And, most central to the basic theme of this book, there are hedgehogs whose research focuses almost exclusively on the destructive effects of emotions and others who focus as selectively as the first group on the vitally beneficial functions that emotions serve.