I love working in consumer insights, and I especially love ethnography work. Whenever I wear the hat of ethnographer I always have this single question in the back of my mind, “what’s your secret?”, meaning, what is it that drives you (the consumer), what fuels your hopes and dreams, what's at the root of your fears and inhibitions, what drives the choices you make in life - both big and small. I understand that if i ever hope to get an answer to this question, I must focus less on the thoughtfully prepared interview guide and more on my ability to have the subject truly feel important relative to my research topic. I often say to them, this time we share together is truly all about you. I give you permission to put your self-interest first and to think foremost about your wants and needs, your own choices, your behaviors and attitudes.
Whether the topic is related to finding ways to live with serious digestive health issues or the joy of a nightly indulgent treat, I believe there is no better way to build insights than from a subject’s self-interest. Investopedia states that self-interest refers to actions that elicit the most personal benefit. And Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, explains that “the best economic benefit for all can usually be accomplished when individuals act in their own self-interest.” These well thought out insights are also fundamental to good ethnographic discovery work.