1 August 2013
Focus groups are a research tool from the field of quality research based on group dynamics, which enables collecting various opinions while examining human behavior in order to understand it, in a relatively short period of time. This method combines an interview technique and an observation technique.
In a focus group, we gather several people in order to conduct a guided group discussion. The course of the discussion enables the individual to 'discover' his / her own behavioral patterns and to 'get a glimpse' of the behavior of the other participants while raising awareness to emotional aspects in regard to the researched subject.
When do we want to use focus groups?
When we want to raise awareness to inter-organizational needs that are not visible on surface level.
When we wish to reach a large number of people in one focused discussion.
When the group's brainstorming has special value.
When the subject is complex and we wish to discover other perceptions.
In order to conduct a focus group, the following settings / phases are vital:
Formulating the research question: what is the objective of this research? What will count as success?
Carefully choosing the participants (research population)-a group of 7 to 10 people with a participant composition in accordance with the research procedure (service representatives for checking Knowledge Management systems, workers from different hierarchical levels for checking organizational portals, etc.)
Choosing a group director with experience and suitable credentials in guiding groups who will enable an open discussion in a positive atmosphere (high interpersonal communication skills, openness, listening etc.)
A device that enables organized documentation of the vast amount of information produced from this research process (focus groups produce a lot of 'text' that needs to be read and analyzed).
The use of a focus group has many advantages, including:
The focus group provides information beyond that that can be acquired through interviews (the group is greater than the sum of its parts).
The focus groups enable viewing a great amount of interaction regarding the subject in a limited period of time.
Nevertheless, it also has its disadvantages:
Difficulty in establishing the right team.
It requires getting a response from all group members (the group director should prevent overt dominance/passivity).
What do you do with all this data?
After the data is produced, it should be read and analyzed in order to understand its meaning and learn operative lessons for the future.