Everyone can benefit from practicing a few observational techniques, particularly if you work in advertising. Lucky for us, observational techniques are accessible to all of us and no one needs to know that you're actually conducting research. The specific technique I'm referring to is known as covert observation because the researcher (you and me) don't identify ourselves to our participants. The beauty is we don't have to because we're practicing this technique during the course of our normal lives.
Here's how it works:
- Go to a park, busy part of town, coffee shop, etc.
- Bring a notebook (and / or camera if you'd like)
- Sit in an area where you are inconspicuous, but can still observe people
- Observe and take notes (or pictures) of what you see. Pay attention to what people do (talk on cell phones while with a friend face-to-face), what they wear, how they interact, etc.
- What are the commonalities of my observations?
- Is there an organizing principle behind each of my observations?
- Why are people doing (insert observation)?
- Finally (for now), what human need(s) does this relate to?
- Connecting, either through friendship, love, etc.
- Expressing ourselves emotionally, creatively, etc.
- Being recognized (i.e. desire to be famous)
- Desire to explore and discover new things
Here are a couple of examples of researchers that engage in observational research that I respect tremendously: Dana Boyd and Michael Wesch.
I'd love to hear about more ways of doing this from you all. Fire back with thoughts.