I spent the first two days of this week on a course. The course was run in the style of a workshop – no lectures, no learning materials, no rigid structure. Just discussions and exercises that ebbed and flowed as questions arose.
This is quite liberating, particularly for a person such as myself who is primarily a quantitative researcher. But it also makes it quite difficult to evaluate how useful the workshop was.
On the one hand, I enjoyed it and I remember thinking at the time how some things could be useful.
But I didn’t take many notes and thinking back, I can’t spontaneously recall a lot of the things we covered.
But that’s because I’m sitting at my desk writing in my blog. I’m not in a situation that requires me to utilise the skills or techniques we discussed.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but if I were in a situation that required me to act in a way that was discussed, I’m pretty confident I would act in a manner approximating the things we discussed.
The discussed is lodged somewhere in my subconscious. The workshop moderators planted ideas in my head regarding how to act in certain situations. I may not be able to recall them now, but in future I may well act on the advice when the right context arises.
This information influences my intuitive behaviour. As it occurs on a deeper level, it makes it hard to evaluate. So how can I?
Perhaps I can’t. Though proponents of advertising research would claim to be able to.
I remain quite sceptical regarding advertising research – pre-testing more so than evaluation. It is not enough to test whether an idea is “taken”, since one may not know it is “taken” until the right circumstances or situation or position on the purchase journey/funnel/prism/metaphor of choice is reached.
People far brighter than me have given pre-testing a great deal more thought than I have, so I will leave the subject at that.
It also makes a sort of logical sense to leave thoughts on a blog post about the gestation of ideas half-formed.
Going back to my workshop, if I were asked to assess whether my attendance had been a valuable experience – not just in the things I’ve gained but balanced against the time spent away from work (which also paid for the course), I’m not sure I could give an accurate answer.
Is the power of positive thinking enough? Is the hope that germs of ideas have been planted in my subconscious enough? Time may tell, but I as a subjective viewer probably won’t be able to see it.