Podcast Series WIRe

WIRe Series – Karen Lynch – InsightsNow

Welcome to the WIRe Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from the WIRe MRx Meet & Mingle event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Karen Lynch, Senior Director of Qualitative Insights at InsightsNow.

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I’m here with Karen Lynch.  We are prepping for the WIRe event tethered to IIeX in Austin.  She is the Senior Director, Qualitative Insights at…


Insights Now.


Insights Now.  There you go. This is a little-known fact.  I have participated with WIRe from the very early days when Kristin started it while working with Decipher.  And I actually stopped going to the events because I felt (and this was my Ah ha moment), I felt so uncomfortable being the only man in the room.    


Oh, got ya, got ya.


Which is a really interesting counterpoint to like last night – I went to dinner, and there were three guys and a girl.  And I’m thinking to myself, “It’s so interesting having the shoe on the other foot.” And just not having that perspective until you’re in that environment.


Yeah, yeah, absolutely.  What you just talked about is what it feels like to be a minority in the room, right?  And so, in many industries, women deal with that all the time: they step into a room filled with men.  So that’s why we celebrate with Women In Research, why we celebrate women in these roles because it’s a strive for equality and strive for balance.  And the closer we get, the better it is for all of us. And your support at those sorts of events brings us closer. So, thank you for that.


For me, it is such an interesting head space.  The framework of business… Recently, I was reading a Harvard Business Review article and they were talking about how temperatures set in offices are set to men’s ideal temperature.


Oh, that’s interesting.


Which is like three degrees cooler than women would prefer it to be.


Yeah, most likely.


And I thought, “Gosh, it’s like just set up in that sort of like framework of…  And I’m not trying like us versus them, us being obviously the man. So, I don’t mean it that way.  I just think there’s so much that’s built up in society that we just take for granted as sort of normal.  And then, to your point, being the only “minority” in room, really does change that dynamic. So, my point in bringing all that up is just that WIRe is an inclusive organization and it’s…  Regardless of any sort of demographic profile, you can participate whether being a supporter or even joining different events they’re putting on. It’s a great opportunity to increase your overall exposure.  Important work. So, ah, tell me Perspective Thinking: “Accessing Perspective Thinking and the Impact on Research Product Development.” What in the world is that?


What are we talking about?  So, in market research we’ve been talking a lot about implicit, explicit testing over the years.  We talk a lot about System 1 versus System 2, thinking that there’s only two ways of thinking and two ways of making decisions.  For those of you listening that don’t necessarily know the difference there, it’s as simple as something in System 1 might be a quick, automatic decision like “Hey, I’m going to grab the gallon of milk that has the red cap ‘cause I know that’s whole milk.”  You don’t have to think much about it; it’s pretty automatic. And then there’s System 2, which is like, “Now I need to buy a car.” And you just don’t grab one off the shelf. You sit and you think and you’re deliberate about it. And those two modes of thinking are at play with every consumer decision that’s made, but what they don’t account for is the imagination.  And so say, you wear glasses. So say, you’re in the frame shop and you’re trying on different lenses and you’re letting your imagination go to “Which one of these makes me look the way I want to look when I’m at my most professional?” “Which one of them portrays my creative side?” “Which one of these puts out there that I’m an open, friendly guy?” So, you’re doing this imaginative thinking.  That’s Perspective Thinking: You’re making a decision with something else at play than both System 1 and System 2.


So is that kind of like a System 3?


It is System 3.  So that’s what Perspective Thinking is.  It’s System 3. And it’s at play in a lot of different decisions that we make.  One of the examples that I use for people is “Imagine you were driving somewhere.  Say, you’re driving home from work. And you know the route that you always take; it pretty straightforward.  But then, you know what? Traffic jam. In your mind, you start to wander navigationally. What other ways might I be able to get home from here?  Because of this traffic jam.” That’s System 3 at play. It might be, “Oh, gosh, they just put a new grocery store in my town. I’m going to have to shop there.  I don’t know what that’s like. Where will I park? What will my behavior be upon entering a brand-new store? Will it be laid out the same way I’m used to?” All that kind of thinking, it’s the stuff of our mind wandering.  That’s System 3 or Perspective Thinking.


So, going back to System 1, which is really more habit, engrained in how we just process instantaneously a decision.  System 2 is much more factual. You break or degrade a product into a series of features and then do your comparing and contrasting in that framework.  And then System 3, which moves into a much more complex perspective, which is this creative thinking element, the envisioning, the, as you said, the creative thinking aspects.  How do you employ that from a research perspective? ‘Cause the first two are easy for me to do, right? The third one: that’s an interesting challenge.


Yeah, because it’s all around hopes and fears and thoughts about what’s happening in the future.  And I think most of us in market research understand that if you were to ask a consumer about the future, they shut down.  There’s actually some psychology involved or neuroscience, I should say, involved with how part of your frontal lobe shuts down when you’re asked about the future.  Your brain can’t go there. So a consumer can’t project into the future and have it be credible for research purposes. But we have tools, right? At Insights Now, we use a tool that helps kind of tap into the spirit of imagination.  It’s a play-based method, for instance. And we put people into this playful state of mind where they’re actually able to get to some more imaginative thinking and bring those thoughts to life. So it’s thoughts about their hopes and their fears and their aspirations.  And then brand teams can kind of go to that space of hopes and fears and aspirations and move forward to different stages of their process with them.


That’s really interesting.  Can you give me an example? Is there a set line of questioning?  Is that how you frame the…?


So, sure.  What we do is we set up an environment conducive to play, first of all.  And we have a method called PlayFull Insights where we’re using Lego bricks to kind of put people into that playful state of mind.  And we have a series of skills that we build as we proceed with PlayFull Insights where people are literally developing their skills, not just manual dexterities but skills because we’re building with Lego bricks but their storytelling skills and their ability to think in metaphor and their ability to talk about themselves in that imaginative space.  So they get to a very safe place of sharing and vulnerability and they let us into those subconscious thoughts about what the future might hold for them all through this kind of method and the deliberate process that we go through to bring them there.


Yeah, psychologists have been using play as a mechanism for dealing with trauma for years, and it’s interesting…  you know sandbox kind of therapy. PlayFull Insights. That’s “Play” and then capital “F” ull, right, is the…


Right, deliberately, yeah.


Yeah, of course.  Talk to me a little bit about the name.


Yeah, so the idea again, going back to what you were saying about the benefits of play and why we wanted our research to be full of all of those benefits, the idea is that in a qualitative setting, which what this particular method is, we want people to be at that kind of relaxed state of mind, at that place that they can go to when their walls come down like children on a playground or in a sandbox if you will.  So what we want to do is capture the spirit of play and all of that great release of endorphins that happens as a result that brings people to this place of this vulnerable sharing, as I was saying. So PlayFull Insights, which is all about getting insights… That’s the business that we’re in, of course, and the conference where we’re at, of course. But the full part of it is just how loaded that is it. People often don’t even know what’s there, right?  There’s a model in psychology called Johari’s Window where some people aren’t even aware of what’s hidden below the surface, but with a method like this, we can bring that to the surface, and they can reveal things that they didn’t even know they necessarily had to share, but it comes out. We’ve brought them to a state of mind through the power of play to load us up with good stuff.


Age?  Is there like a cut-off for…?


So, sure.  So, sure. I just did this work actually with adolescents.  We can start as young as adolescents. If it’s too young, it’s like their imaginations…




It’s just normal, but they also, if they’re too young, they literally just want to play.  And they don’t want to be strategic about it, deliberate about it, which is what we are doing.  It’s hard to tell a child, “You’re not just building from your imagination alone; you’re building what we tell you to build.”  So too young is not really great, but adolescence is when it kicks in, through teens. It really works very well all the way up through kind of the senior citizen age where No. 1 there’s an element of cynicism, where they really do just like to talk and not necessarily talk on purpose but, most importantly, there manual dexterity starts to deteriorate a little bit.  It’s a little harder for them to assemble Lego bricks, for instance. I mean we have other play-based methods that we could use with other adults in that kind of demographic, if you will, but this particular one that we’ve just referenced, PlayFull Insights, kind of cuts off at that age.


How did you come up with it?


So, it’s actually my baby, if you will.  Several years ago, the Lego Group actually started and developed the method of Lego Serious Play.  And a few years ago, it came on my radar. They made it open source in 2009. And so, it got on my radar in the early 2010s, and I became a facilitator of the Lego Serious Play method, which is great for team building, strategic planning, creative problem solving, breakthrough methods for internal purposes.  And because I was in the field of qualitative research, I worked with another qualitative researcher, a colleague of mine, and the two of us said there has to be a way to adapt this for research purposes, which is a little different because the consumers don’t necessarily know what we’re doing there or why we’re doing it.  They’re not privy to all of our objectives, and we want to keep it that way so they don’t kind of get in the way of the research process. So we had to adapt the method a little bit, but it was just a natural fit for us because the insights gleaned from metaphorical conversations are really genius. So anyway, this colleague of mine, we just got to work on how to make it happen, right, forcing connections between one method in one field to this method in our field.       


I love the creativity associated with that.  I’m sure you guys we’re playing with some bricks at that point in time


Absolutely.  That’s what it’s all about.  A lot of fun. And it makes everybody happy, right?  There’s a whole lot of fun and smiling energy that comes into a room when we have Lego bricks spread around.  


Do you have a favorite project?  


For that particular method?


This particular methodology.


Well, it’s hard not to talk about one we just came off of.  We just came off of a case study actually where we executed with Kraft Heinz some work exploring fun with adolescent children, in fact.  And some of things that we learned from these, again, pre-teens about who they are and what they aspire to probably will stay with me for a long time.  We got to some great depth of insights with the generation that, typically, doesn’t really talk that much in a focus-group setting.


I know you can’t share any specifics.  I’m dying to ask you.


Well, alright, no, I can tell you.  They talked about themselves (this is not proprietary; we, actually, shared this out at a different event in a case study.)  They talked about who they were when they were at their best, and they talked about exhibiting good sportsmanship and they talked about being kind and non-judgmental and they talked about overcoming obstacles and barriers and had this great kind of emotional intelligence that they showed to us, which I don’t think we give younger generations a lot of credit for all the time.  So it was really nice to see them building models that talked about who they were at their best because they’re really fantastic human beings.


Ah, that’s fantastic.


Yeah, good stuff, really fun.


This is obviously a qualitative structure.  Do you have a specific facility that you do this in?  Or do you travel around?


We travel around.  As long as you’re trained in the method, you can do this at any traditional focus-group facility if the client team wants to be behind the mirror.  We have the supplies that we need. So we bring those with us, and we set up. We’ve also done it on site at corporate offices when we’re doing more of a co-creation where we have client teams, for instance, right in the mix with other adults.  We’re building literally side by side and then comparing and contrasting what team “Company” would build versus what team “Consumer” would build. And we’re talking about the differences and were getting right to the “So, what does all this mean?” right there in the session.  So it’s kind of a great co-creation method, if you will, when we’re on site in an organization as well.


If somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?


Oh, sure, thank you.  Well, the easiest way would be to shoot me an email:  It’s Karen.Lynch@InsightsNow.com.  Karen, traditionally K-A-R-E-N; Lynch, traditionally



You have to actually specify that, by the way.  That’s good.


I know because some people are like, “Is that Karen with a “C”?  And I’m like, “No, it’s the traditional way.” I had traditionalist parents.


My guest today has been Karen Lynch, Senior Director, Qualitative Insights at Insights Now.  Thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Pleasure.  I could talk to you all day long.  


Oh, I’d love that, and I am excited about getting…  Actually, back up really quick. Women In Research, how long have you been a participant?


So, just a few years now, probably about three years, I think.


Are you a mentor?


I was a mentor last year.  It was one of the best experiences that I had ever done in my career.  Worked with a young woman who was a minority woman, was an African-American woman, and she often felt that in this industry that is heavy with women – not a lot of African-American representation – and she wants to be able to have a voice in that space.    


Oh, I love that.  Is she here at this event?  


Yeah, she’s fantastic.  She’s not at this event, no, but she did some amazing things over the course of our year.  So I highly recommend anybody who has that kind of time and mindset to be a mentor and also give back just a little bit to this industry that gives us so much.  


Karen, thanks for being on the show today.


Sure thing.  My pleasure.