CEO and Founder of MindSpark Research International, Nikki Lavoie, joins Sima Vasa today. They discuss the two niches that Nikki has found work really well together for her Paris-based company: 1) international qualitative research and 2) UX research.
MindSpark: Born Out of Necessity
From a young age, Nikki Lavoie knew she wanted to travel around the world. With a background in market research, both qualitative and quantitative, she accepted a job in Paris but eventually outgrew it, and was ready to move on to something else.
Not quite ready to return to working in the States, her options for breaking into the local job market as an American abroad were limited.
Starting out as a freelancer 5 years ago, she quickly began taking on more projects than she could handle alone, and thus, MindSpark Research International was born.
“I got offered a job in Paris, and surprisingly, I actually almost said ‘no’. Somewhere, that little phone conversation got to me, and I was like, ‘Your 15-year-old self would be furious if you said no to this job’.” Nikki Lavoie
Nikki shares how she truly enjoyed working on the quantitative side of research and studies. She found herself fascinated by the things she saw in the data, but it left her with more questions. Qualitative doesn’t answer every single question one could possibly have, but it’s certainly more immersive.
“Qualitative research: that’s where all the good stuff is!” – Nikki Lavoie
Human connections and having really deep conversations about research topics are fulfilling and useful for the client because you’re using what you’re learning about them to help better their life or their situation in some way.
“Heartbeats before spreadsheets.” – Nikki Lavoie
An Impactful Story
Some interactions can be instantaneously meaningful, and some interactions are impactful in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. Nikki provides an example.
“This whole ‘Don’t connect with people’ and ‘Don’t get emotionally involved’ – I don’t believe in that. I don’t personally function with that was as a researcher because people can feel that, when you’re holding back from them. And then they hold back from you.” – Nikki Lavoie
Asking questions and enjoying the conversation can help you learn a lot from the researcher perspective, but it also enables you to give back in a meaningful way to the people with whom you’re conversing.
The terms “qualitative research” and “UX research” are sometimes used interchangeably. To confuse things even further, there’s “market research”. Nikki sets the record straight on these terms, and how companies are going into qualitative research with the same goal: to connect with users and understand them.
“From MindSpark’s perspective, all qualitative research is user research, and UX is user research. The point of user research is to empathize with the user, not to just observe them but to really feel what they’re feeling, experience what they’re experiencing so that you can take that on and go forth and do something useful with it.” – Nikki Lavoie
The contentious part of the terms concern infographics comparing market research and UX, in which there are a lot of differences. Market studies are not the same as user research.