Who’s on first? And why does that matter?

June 21, 2012

The Economist recently reported on a study that has some interesting consequences for CI. The study basically indicates that decision-makers are biased by the daily pieces of information they are working with. Or, as the article puts it, interviewers favor those seen first.


Well, in the case of CI, that means that the person doing some CI research (and analysis) is most impacted by the first person they speak to about this. Who is that? Why the Client of course. In other words, anyone doing any CI research runs the risk of being infected by the Client’s own (unstated) biases. Why? Because that is the first person that he or she talks to about the project, so they give him/her greater weight than people they later interview.

Carolyn (Vella), my partner, suggests an even more interesting possible issue. For those of you who do the research, whether for a Client or for yourself, being methodical may not be a great idea. That is, if you start every project, say, by checking consumer blogs and then industry experts (or vice versa), then you may be overly influenced by what that first site or interviewee discloses. And, doing your research the same way each time could tend to assure that you never escape that bias trap.

She also suggests a cure: not only vary the way you start, but start with sites (or interviewees) that quickly disclose their own biases. For example, start with a consumer blog where people tell everyone WHY they are critical or supportive of a product. That is, position yourself to inoculate  your own or your client’s own biases with those of others.

Think about it.

2 Comments on “Who’s on first? And why does that matter?”

  1. I feel like there are so many countless benefits to what you just said. Being aware of routines and habits can be difficult for lots of people, especially when they are emotional or close-to-home; but applying the mindset of “what are my routines?” to your research practices “at work” can help you to see what you do without any personal defenses…which then gives that faculty some exercise, and may make it easier to spot other such patterns in daily life! We are so much more creative and happy when we are not completely living through routine, so even though this may be a strange response to your post, I really like it for this reason 🙂
    I clicked on it because of the three stooges reference, of course 🙂

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