Market-Driven Thinking: Achieving Contextual Intelligence
Excerpted from "Market-Driven Thinking: Achieving Contextual Intelligence" by Arch G. Woodside. Printed with permission from Butterworth-Heinemann, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2005. For more information about this book and other similar titles, please visit Elsevier.
Chapter 2: Case Study Research Methods for Learning how Executives and Customers Think, Decide and Act
Why Case Study Research is Useful, Particularly in Industrial Marketing
A substantial portion of research in industrial marketing focuses on the decisions and the behaviors by individuals and groups within and between organizations (Woodside, 1992; Woodside and Wilson, 2000). The most frequently used research method in the field involves sending a mail survey of mostly closed-ended questions covering 10 to 20 research constructs. The request usually made is that the questionnaire be completed by one person per firm, without comparison to any other person's answers. The reported response rates for such studies typically range from eight to thirty percent.
This dominant logic assumes that the responding individual is willing to report her own thinking process, the thinking processes of others involved in the decision process, and the sequence of events that occurred over several days, weeks, months, or years. The dominant research paradigm assumes that the research constructs (e.g., role ambiguity, trust, closeness of supervision) measured on fixed-point scales provide the nuance necessary for capturing the thinking/doing processes under study.
Yet the scientific literature on thinking concludes that about 95 percent of thought is subconscious (Wegner, 2002; Zaltman, 2003) and that people have only limited access to their own thinking processes, not to mention the thinking processes of others. Consequently, research methods attempting to measure ongoing thinking (e.g., van Someren, Baranrd, and Sandberg, 1994) and thinking by the same person using multiple interviews over several weeks (e.g., Cox, 1967; Cyert, Simon, and Trow, 1956; Witte, 1972;Woodside and Wilson, 2000), methods to bring up subconscious thinking (e.g., Schank, 1999; Fauconnier, 1997), and interviewing the multiple participants involved in the thinking/doing under study (e.g., Biemans, 1989) not only are particularly useful steps, they become mandatory if we really want to achieve deep understanding in research on thinking/doing processes in industrial marketing.
"I Hate Lying Like That"
The operational constructs using closed-ended responses developed by researchers fail to uncover the deep nuances and dynamic interactions between thoughts and actions within and between individuals that occur within industrial marketing contexts. The following story illustrates such nuances that CSR can capture in ways unlikely to be captured by closed-ended mail survey responses. The story involves a sales call made by a representative of an industrial distributor of copiers and printing equipment (this sales call was overheard by one of the authors who rode in the same vehicle with the sales rep). During the selling/buying discussion involving the new purchase requirements, the customer mentioned that the copier purchased recently from the sales rep was broken again. Both the sales rep and the customer mentioned that the copier had needed a service technician to repair it almost every week since it was installed six weeks before. The sales rep responded to the customer's concern by saying, "I'm sorry you've experienced so many problems with your new copier. We will get to the bottom of the situation. It's a fine piece of equipment and we will solve the problem so it doesn't keep coming up." After getting back in his car, the sales rep remarked to the researcher, "The copier is a piece of shit; I really hate lying like that [to a customer]. It's really going to hurt my relationship with the guy." The sales rep elaborated that a competing distributor carried a line of copiers that were far superior in performance and reliability compared to his product line.
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This was first published in November 2006