Kyle Nel

The other day I received a survey, as I often do, from a large, unnamed company. Probably much like you, I have taken more than my fair share of surveys—some good, some not so good, but this survey was just horrible. Below is a screenshot from the actual survey. Did anyone, let alone a researcher, actually take this survey? Second, if I were a normal survey respondent would I have taken this whole thing seriously, if I finished it at all? My answer to both of those questions would have to be no, but yet there it was nonetheless.

The sad part of this story is that there is a researcher somewhere in that large, nameless company furiously puling apart the data that were collected from this atrocious survey. Once that analysis is completed others will use that faulty data and subsequent faulty results to make—you guessed it—faulty decisions. This mental scene and others like it have caused me to lose a lot of faith in survey-based research.

We don’t have to ask so often. In the past few years there has been an explosion of options for gaining insight without asking. I am not just talking about social media research, but in-depth qualitative methods, other observational research methods, mining CRM and other behavioural data, etc.

This is my proposal: we are addicted … addicted to surveys and their data. I propose that we take a one-month fast from survey research.  Designate the month of August as no-survey month. I am of course in no way suggesting not doing research that month, but rather creatively employing new methods to better understand people and uncover insights. Make it a game to see who can be the most creative in solving problems. It has been my experience that these non-survey methods yield much richer insights—and often at a lower expense.

So who is with me?  Take the pledge: No SURVEY August!

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 Kyle Nel is Head of International and Multicultural Research for Lowe’s Home    Improvement in USA