Field research operates with a single goal: To better understand the world. It starts with a systematic understanding of user needs, placed with their social and cultural context, The insights it generates can effectively impact design, strategy, policy and brand.
While it is often sold as such, spending time with “users”, however we define this term, does not automatically lead an organisation to have greater empathy for the people they are looking to influence and affect. These methods are often applied at scale in corporations and consultancies, where the emphasis is on the mechanics of data extraction rather than quality and intent.
Many factors go into conducting good field research: the team’s starting assumptions, pulling together a strong local crew, knowing where to stay, and selecting the optimal methodological mix to bring in the right data in the right format to apply it to the challenge at hand. But the key to greatfield research requires an altogether different approach—one that pushes the team and clients to reframe their relationships with one another and their customers.