Curiosity: The Essential Mindset of a Successful Market Researcher

Are you curious?

Do you constantly ask questions, want to know more, NEED to know more?

Everyone is curious about something. Whether that something is engineering, medicine, politics, or consumer behavior, we all have an inherent need to learn more about the topics we’re passionate about. Fear can sometimes get in the way of curiosity, whether it’s a fear of trying an innovative new qualitative method or a fear of the black box that often defines artificial intelligence, but the reward for satisfying our curiosity can more than compensate for that fear. The reward is pleasure, satisfaction, happiness, and delight. Forget financial incentives!

Curiosity is the underpinning of marketing research. It’s the quest for understanding who, what, why, where, when, and how people do things in a consumer setting. Where do they buy liquid soap? How do they choose a laptop brand? Why do they need a 90-inch television? It’s a quest to know more about consumers, customers, categories, culture, and more.

Todd Kashdon has proposed that there are 5 dimensions of curiosity and it’s fascinating to see how each one directly and creatively defines the marketing research process.

  1. Joyous Exploration: Seeking out new knowledge and learning from it is the essence of the marketing research journey. We exude joyous exploration in the process of defining our research objectives. What begins as one simple question is poked and prodded until it evolves into 20 or 30 questions about our customers — each one as important as the other, each one equally deserving of challenging the scientific method. Like six-year old kids trying to understand the unknowns in their world, building research objectives is a relentless obsession of gleefully asking why, why, why.
  2. Deprivation Sensitivity: Not having answers to why people behave in certain ways, why they only buy a certain brand, or why they dislike a brand they’ve never tried creates a level of anxiety that can only be resolved by finding the answer and filling the knowledge gap. You might consider a discussion guide to be a resolution for deprivation sensitivity. Discussion guides are carefully planned so that every topic is probed deeply enough to clarify answers and fill those tension-causing gaps. We strive to build discussion guides that cover as many unknowns as possible so we can lessen tension about the research topic.
  3. Stress Tolerance: Researchers are keen to dive straight into unknown problems despite the uncertainties about what may greet them in the end. Moderators begin every focus group, interview, or discussion prepared to discover answers their client might not be happy about. But, their innate curiosity allows them to keep an open mind to what they are hearing, actively seek out different points of view, and follow threads of conversation to figure out what the answer truly is. The stress is tolerated – anticipated perhaps – because finding answers to problems is a glorious incentive for researchers.
  4. Social Curiosity: Of course, researchers could simply undertake a self-ethnography to figure out all the answers, but we are desperate to understand the world of other people, those who may be very similar to ourselves but, even better, those who might be very different. Have you ever read a research report that didn’t leave you straining with curiosity to learn about a different segment or target group? Of course not. Researchers don’t know how to do that. Researchers want to know what women think, what men think, what older, younger, happier, sadder, hipper, boring people think.
  5. Thrill Seeking: If you can call meeting every research need within the confines of tight budgets and tight timelines while also ensuring high validity and reliability exciting, then market researchers have got thrill seeking in spades. Data analysis is another perfect point of reference for thrill seeking. As every data point is reviewed and analyzed, surprising answers are discovered and new hypotheses are born. Every research project is an adventure in surprise and amazement.

Curiosity is clearly an essential skill for market researchers. However, Francesca Gino feels it is an essential component for business. In her excellent article called, “The Business Case for Curiosity,” she explains that curiosity helps people think more deeply and rationally about decisions, and come up with more creative solutions. She even demonstrates that curiosity can generate workplace improvements, reduce group conflict, and improve team performance.

The market research industry seems to have one overriding requirement, and that’s encouraging more curiosity!


You might like to read these:


Quester® is award-winning consumer intelligence firm that uses proprietary artificial intelligence technologies to conduct multi-lingual qualitative research on a quantitative scale. We specialize in yielding superior consumer understanding in areas such as innovation, concept development, brand positioning, segmentation, and path to purchase. Our online software-based moderator and analytical software probes deep into participant thought processes, analyzes responses, and allows researchers to make wise business decisions grounded in data. It has netted Quester an EXPLOR Award from the TMRE and an Ogilvy Award from The ARF. Learn about our DIY tools on our website.

Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn!


  • Tim Hoskins

    As President of Quester, Tim Hoskins leads a talented team of researchers, developers, and strategists who are redefining the strategy and insights industry.

    Under his leadership, Quester has won numerous business impact awards including multiple Ogilvy Awards and EXPLOR Awards. He has been instrumental in the development of award winning creative campaigns, breakthrough product innovations, and successful product launches.

    Tim currently serves as Past-Chairman of the Board for the Insights Association, Co-Chair of the national Corporate Researchers Conference, and on the Indico Labs board of directors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.