I’d like to get your reaction to something I heard recently at an industry conference. The director of strategic insights at a media company said the following:

“It’s a crazy idea to me, 56% of people in our survey opted out of the college experience in the United States.”

Notice anything odd? I did. The judgment. It almost killed me. I wanted to jump out of my seat and rephrase the sentence to remove the obvious judgment and bias. It wasn’t that 56% of the US population “opted out” – for many people, going to college isn’t a choice. It’s not available, affordable, or even expected of them. It’s just not in the cards.

Instead of balancing the statement out, the speaker came at it from a position of being judgmental. According to the speaker’s worldview, it was “crazy” that people would choose not to go to college. As though the folks who were not pursuing higher education were making the choice from a position of privilege – that it was readily available to them and they could deign to decide to go or not.  In an era where college loans are hanging over people well into their working years like dark storm clouds, college is not affordable and therefore not available to everyone and enrollment rates have declined slightly. And even of those that go to college, not all complete their degree.  

Judgment doesn’t just happen at conferences however. We witness judgment from our clients and their internal stakeholders. Some of it is the result of System 2 thinking trying to make sense of System 1 behavior. Judgment, in the form of bias, gets in the way of connecting not only with the consumer but also with the insight that could radically transform your business for the better.

Judgment is also the first barrier in the journey to building empathy. If you can’t dismantle it, you won’t be able to go further than sitting in judgment of others.

Because I see this happen so often at client companies – either in the obvious, overstated ways as well as more subtle instances, I’ve put together a presentation called “Let’s Cut the Judgment!” I’m delighted that I will get to share this presentation at QRCA’s annual conference in Savannah, GA Jan 31-Feb 1.* Here’s all the info on the event including how you can register.*

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with judgment in the research process. Examples that you’d like me to include (anonymously of course) are more than welcome. Or if you’d like to just discuss judgment and how to handle it, please send me a note at rob@ignite-360.com.

*QRCA is not just for consultant moderators – if you are a corporate side researcher who also moderates on the DIY projects, there are lots of great resources, tips and tricks to be learned.