Musings: Engaging Research Respondents, vs. Bribery

April 5, 2016

Dear Readers;

The remark almost went unnoticed: “Is there an extra incentive in there if we do this exercise?” At the time I was facilitating a Co-Creation Session and I asked my research participants to sketch out their ideas for an eye-catching package that would succinctly tell our new product’s story. I breezily responded: “Well I certainly hope that everyone feels that they’ve been fairly compensated for their time and brainpower!” (Our panelists were being paid $150 for 2 ½ hours of their time.)

In the flurry of analysis and report writing I forgot about the incident until a week later. I was listening to a webinar on the use of Gamification in online consumer research. It’s a growing trend in our industry. Research platform providers are incorporating video game-like elements into research design to incentivize participants to answer questions or to do activities. While respondents get paid for their overall attendance in the online discussion, they are also rewarded with points or money for completing particular exercises. For example: upload a selfie eating your favorite snack for an additional $15. Answer a question in another section of the discussion and get an extra $10, etc. The providers’ rationale is that these games and rewards engage respondents and make the research more fun.

I’m all for fun and making research engaging, but I can’t help but feeling uneasy.

My concern is that as a research industry and culture, an emphasis on gamification is potentially creating a monster. We may end up attracting even more people who are just looking to “game” the system. We already know that there is a danger in the “professional” recruits, the “Cheaters & Repeaters.” Abby Leafe and I reported results of our study into this problem (50 Shades of Respondent Grey) at the QRCA National Conference in 2013 and we continue to share new ideas and strategies to mitigate against this danger.

How can we increase engagement without ”bribery” — buying completion of discrete sub-tasks?

In my experience, the major responsibility for engagement rests on the shoulders of the research consultant who should create an environment that is comfortable, safe, non-judgmental and friendly, even if it’s not filled with fun activities.

Nurturing engagement starts at the very beginning of a research conversation. I like to begin a group or interview by thanking my panelists for taking time out of their busy lives to join us. I underscore how important these conversations are for company personnel to learn how they can improve their products and services for all who use them. At the conclusion of the discussion I confirm that their voices have been heard, and thank them for their contributions. I’ve received enough feedback over the years from participants to know that these actions contribute to feelings of accomplishment, enjoyment and personal satisfaction, and they are not linked to the financial compensation they receive for their participation.

I also think we can also do more to recruit the “right” participants in the first place. Beyond demographics, product usage (and even) creativity and articulation questions, we can include some recruit questions to help find those people who are also more intrinsically motivated, internally satisfied. These are the people who feel enjoyment from doing a task itself.

Contrast that to those who are predominantly attracted to external rewards, or are extrinsically motivated.

Dr. Teresa Amabile, currently Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, has developed an extensive body of work on motivation and creativity in individuals, teams and organizations. I have oversimplified her findings in this article. Teresa and her colleagues have produced landmark studies on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and how the work environment can influence creativity and motivation. The following is an excerpt from What Doesn’t Motivate Creativity Can Kill It (Harvard Business Review, April 25, 2012) by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer.

We all need equitable, sufficiently generous compensation for our work, to avoid the distraction of financial worries, and to feel that we (and our work) are valued by our organizations. Recognition is another essential form of reward; it, too, signals that the person and the work are valued. Neither of these extrinsic motivators need damage intrinsic motivation or creativity. But when people feel that material rewards are being dangled before them like carrots on a stick, they come to feel externally controlled — a primary damper of intrinsic motivation.”

It strikes me that these findings should be applicable to our world of market research. In my quest to “up my game,” I’ll be experimenting with additional approaches to recruit and nurture more of these intrinsically motivated research participants. And I will continue to design ways to engage them in candid interchanges within the research arena.

Surely more to come on this.

I invite your comments!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

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One Response

  1. Very interesting piece, Laurie.

    Reva

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