Qualitative Research is Product Management

Nikki Lavoie is the Founder of MindSpark Research International in Paris, as well as the vice president of ESOMAR Council and a member of the board of the Association of Qualitative Research.


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An American in Paris, Nikki Lavoie is the founder of MindSpark Research International, where she crosses cultural boundaries in the name of qualitative research. She is an expert on the subject, even serving as vice president of ESOMAR, a nonprofit that promotes the value of market, opinion and social research, and data analytics, and as a member of the board of the Association of Qualitative Research. So when Nikki defines the term qualitative research, it’s worth a listen:

“Qualitative research isn’t about necessarily connecting with people and talking with people, although those two things are important. The heart of qual research, in my opinion, is actually observation. It’s watching what people actually do in real scenarios to the extent that you can do that. For me, the idea of asking questions and connecting with people, connecting with people first and foremost, and developing empathy is really important.”

TIPM-Quote-NikkiLavoieNikki works with her clients to “illuminate for them what their actual users are doing, saying, and thinking about their product or service.” She does this, primarily, by watching them. As she points out, they may not find what they expected, but they’ll always find out something they didn’t know before. 

“Most of the time, there’s something pretty interesting and astounding that you can learn from just watching your actual users or your perspective users engage with your product,” she says. “Having that experience of being able to just say, ‘OK, shop on my website, or use my app,’ and seeing what they actually do. I’ve never had a project where nothing was learned. Not one time.”

Learn more about Nikki’s worldly thoughts on research, as well as her 3 things you need to ask yourself before you start a project — and 3.5 things to watch out for when doing research yourself — on this episode of This Is Product Management.


Download the transcript of this episode here:


Here are the highlights:

  • How Nikki defines qualitative research: 4:51
  • Notes on working with Twitter on accessibility: 13:09
  • Three questions to ask about doing research yourself: 18:27
  • The 3.5 traps to avoid when taking on research internally: 25:27
  • Nikki’s recommendations for our new Culture Club: 25:43

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