Quant vs qual research: which tool when?
Knowing when to change your approach is half the battle
Knowing which tool to use, when, is tricky when you feel boxed in.
Here’s an example I’ve seen 3x in the last two weeks: we’re now deep into the quarter, and a team is not on track to meet their outcome / OKR for the quarter. They’re really feeling the pressure. There’s a bit of panic in the air.
At this point, they are trying everything they can to solve the problem, or even find a beachhead on the problem. They are often unsure of where to go, since everything they thought of so far has not worked.
Here’s what I tell them:
(1) Quantitative approaches tell you what, qualitative approaches tell you why.
(2) If you know what is happening and don’t understand why, zoom in on the problem area and go talk to people (qual). If you don’t know the shape of what’s happening, dig into your numbers (quant).
(3) You can start from either, but you need both. Qualitative approaches tend to help more with idea generation, while quantitative help you focus your energy.