In an earlier century, the would-be entrepreneurs had an idea for a new business: home delivery of desserts. No one in their area was doing it, and they would have the market all to themselves. A shoestring operation, they had budgeted for only two focus groups. We took the project, saying we’d use two different moderators and two different approaches.
Moderator 1 began the first group by asking everyone to talk about their favorite desserts.
Study subjects raptured about cakes and pies, sweets of all kinds, and lots and lots of chocolate. After they had salivated for nearly an hour, Moderator 1 asked if they would be interested in having their favorite desserts delivered to their homes. Everyone was excited and said they wished someone would deliver dessert right now! All in Group 1 agreed it was a wonderful idea, and all agreed the new business would be a certain success.
Moderator 2 started the second group by asking about their experiences with things delivered to their homes.
After a bit, Moderator 2 asked them to focus their conversation solely on home delivery of foods. This they did, speaking mostly about pizzas and a little about Chinese food.
Moderator 2 asked what kinds of foods they would like to have delivered that no one is delivering now.
Brows furrowed and people hemmed and hawed as they tried to think of something but couldn’t. A few individuals offered half-hearted suggestions in the manner of paid study subjects trying to be helpful, “I dunno, maybe barbecue?”
No one had mentioned desserts unprompted, so Moderator 2 asked, What about a business that delivers desserts to your home? Would you like that?
Panelists hooted at the absurdity of the idea. They quickly gave Moderator 2 half a dozen reasons why it couldn’t possibly work. All in Group 2 agreed it was a terrible idea, and all agreed the new business would be a certain failure.
Approaches have a huge influence on outcomes. If we want our research to provide honest reactions and objective feedback, we need take honest and objective approaches.