What I Learnt As A CNM Major
Many of the students (including me) wondered why we need to take up research modules for CNM. Before I entered university, I thought that my major will be kind of cool and “artsy” with storytelling and media and all that, but it turns out that we are classified under the social sciences. Perhaps that’s the reason why we need to study research methods? So that we can read research papers better? Nevertheless, I thought that I will never have to use my knowledge in research after I graduate.
But I was wrong.
Firstly, research allows you to see statistics in a more informed manner. You will not take the numbers at face value because you understand better how these numbers came about. How is that important? Because you need accurate data to make a better decision. If you read somewhere that “87% of consumers prefer mobile apps than mobile sites for a brand”, it may not be true, or statistically significant. And if you take this information at face value and propose a suggestion based on this, will you able to generate positive results with high certainty?
Fact-checking is important when you have to decide the next step that you should do in business, or any other realms. Other sources won’t be able to fool you anymore. For example, one article may say, “An increase in visiting of websites causes an increase in sales.” But as someone with some kind of research background, you know that this is called CORRELATION, not CAUSALITY. You know how to test for correlation and causality, and they are completely different. With an increase in visits, you have an increase in sales. But an increase in visits does not directly cause your sales to increase.
There may be some other factor that influence sales, such as the layout of the website is pleasant and simple, or the “pay” button is obvious enough, or that the registration process is easier to complete than other sites. If you can’t identify the true factor and your website layout is a huge mess, then pumping in money to drive traffic to your website will not increase your sales!
This means, being educated on research methods does make you more particular and precise.
I’ve talked about quantitative research, now let’s move on to qualitative.
Ok, you may ask, then what will qualitative research benefit us? Number one, you learnt that one’s reality is constructed based on the lenses that they use to see and understand the world. That’s why facing the same incident, Person A will have different thoughts compared to Person B. Knowing this allows you to be a more open-minded person because as a researcher, you have to erase your own biases and look at the world as objectively as you can. Forget yourself and your own existence, and immerse yourself in your participants’ world and discover as much as you can – without judgements.
This definitely helps you to understand people more, empathize with their emotions, see things in a wider perspective, be more acceptable, build connections and many more. I believe a good qualitative researcher will also have a higher emotional intelligence, because he/she needs to be able to gain participants’ trust (deemed as a friend instead of an enemy and to open up to him/her), and also to fully understand and make sense of other individual’s reality.
This is especially useful when you are dealing with a client. Facing the client is not all about trying to convince them that you have what they want, but it’s about understanding their problem first so that you are able to provide real value to them. So after looking at things from a qualitative research perspective, I stopped “fighting” with the client where I say my point and they will say theirs since a consensus will never be met. I forget that I am a marketer (researcher) for a moment, and instead try to understand the client (participant) and get them to talk. I began to put myself in their shoes, look at their world using their lenses and uncover their reality. Only from there, you know where you should be heading to.
Secondly, you know what you should say when you are talking to someone to avoid leading them so as to hear their honest opinion. Also, you know how to make use of body language (a kind of non-verbal communication tool) to convey assurance and trust so that your interviewees will feel comfortable to share more about their most honest thoughts.
Which I will talk about it now.
You learn when to make eye contact and when to move away your gaze to avoid discomfort. You know how to emphasize your eye contact to prompt more information from them. You make effective use of silence. You learn about putting your hands on the table instead of underneath, to show that you are being open up towards the other party. You are able to observe other people’s body language and pick up cues so that you can adjust your communication to make them feel better.
There are many examples of what you learn in CNM which you are able to apply it in real life if you are observant enough. You know how the communication cycle works; what you say may not be what they get and what they say may not be what you get. Hence you are a better communicator now, by not only actively listening to the words spoken, but also actively observing any cues given. Is there a pause? Is it a hesitation? Should I remain silent? You know the answer.
There could be many more that I can cover, but that’s all for now. I’ve got to explore more in the future in areas like public relations, organization communication and even storytelling! How do we apply them in life? I am curious to find out, as well.
But the most important note, is not about how you apply knowledge in school to use in real life. It’s about how to enhance your learning process to dive deeper than what you normally see on the surface. When the professors teach you A, don’t just stop at A, go to BCDEF to find out more about it and more areas of application. Just like how I learn about research methods and apply them in multiple areas in life – not just understanding statistics, but also understanding humans.
You can see what is behind and beneath, instead of studying the tip of the iceberg. Hence in the future, I wonder what else I can discover, that relates tightly to what I’ve already know.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust