Big or Small: No Data Set is Perfect

What do big data, survey research, ethnographic studies, focus groups and customer analytics all have in common?

They are all imperfect.

Yes, they have their respective strengths, but none of them yield perfect data. None.

So as market research and customer insights professionals, what does this mean for our work?

  • It means we must abandon our biases for “traditional” market research methods, and accept that we live in a world where newer data sources may be the best fit for a given research need.
  • It means that we absolutely need to possess a minimum level of data fluency (sometimes outside of our comfort zones!) so that we can objectively choose the optimal method(s) for any given project goal.

Think about it this way, if every project that crosses your desk looks like a survey project to you, you may need a data fluency boost.

For practical purposes, data fluency is ultimately this:

The data fluent research and insights professional knows how to get, assess, interpret and apply various types of data. Qual or quant. “Big” or “small”. Structured or unstructured. Observed or self-reported.

At the upcoming Quirks events in Irvine and Brooklyn, I’ll be presenting “Embracing and Promoting Data Fluency: A Rising Data Tide Lifts All Research Boats.”  I’ll present two significant opportunity paths I see for research and insights professionals who embrace data fluency. I will also share a framework for matching research goals with methodology options, to illustrate a data fluent approach.


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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