Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hawker's Epiphany

No, I’m not going to write about the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.  I’m going to concentrate on the other definition of epiphany; a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation.

Because as some of you may know, this month I attended a conference in Liverpool, and it’s fair to say that this is where my most recent epiphany occurred.  I was listening to someone involved with designing museums and galleries (Christian Lachel) and a key part of his address was to say that one should always ‘start with the heart, and then move outwards’. 

His claim was that through understanding people’s emotions, or indeed their personal story, we could begin to design around it to ensure that what was designed chimed perfectly with what was felt.

And there it was; a paper amongst many papers, a suggestion amongst many other suggestions.  But here was one that cut to my heart; here was one that I totally ‘got’.

It brought home to me what I actually try and do as a qualitative researcher – because I too attempt to find out what is in someone’s heart in order to understand what might explain their story. 

And yes, sometimes this is built around what some might say are more mundane products; a paint brush, a car shampoo, an electric cooler even.

But at other times, the topic is more intense; teenage health and wellbeing, post natal illness, heart disease, adoption; all of these sensitive issues I’ve researched quite recently.

And what do both sets of subjects involve; they involve me trying to get to the heart of the matter; trying to unravel stories which I can later use to build strategies around whatever marketing problem I’ve been asked to address.

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I have sometimes struggled to explain to friends and family about what I do for a living.  In their eyes, even those who have known me for a long time, I’m convinced their image is still of me standing on street corners with a clipboard.  And whilst in fairness I’m still heavily involved with that type of data capture, I’ve never actually stood on street corners with a clipboard myself.

Following my epiphany, though, I’m now thinking of another line to explain what I do to those who are interested enough to ask.  Now I will announce that “I find out what’s in people’s hearts”, now I shall state that “I’m a storyteller and a collector of tales”.

I’m aware that some might still find this explanation a tad obscure.  But in my view not only does it add a touch more romance and mystery, it also provides a more accurate portrayal of what I think I’ve been trying to do all my working life.
Here’s to your next epiphany!