Innovation vs. Classic

The continued relevance of the IDI within the ever-changing qualitative landscape

An inquisitive bunch…

We love talking to people. Not in any and all situations mind you, there is, after all, a limit as to how much small talk you can engage in; but incisive chatter is essentially the bread and butter of excellent qualitative market research. Having the opportunity to sit down with a patient or a doctor and digging into their lives, understanding what makes them tick and searching to uncover those crucial insights that can make an entire study spin on a dime is absolutely my drug of choice in market research. Anything can happen in the next 60 minutes…

Long live the IDI

Of course, we all recognise that market research is a dynamic beast. An ever-evolving landscape, generating new concepts that bump up happily (or less happily) against one another is now a noticeable constant in this fluid space, with each new approach designed to really ‘access the reality’ of the respondent – the holy grail of all market research. We are not denying of course, that new thinking represents an exciting time for all of us; however, in this brave new world, the outstanding benefits that have long been associated with Individual depth interviews (IDIs), working as a more intimate one-on-one between just you and your respondent, could be lost amidst the louder noise of the new ‘in-thing’.

Matching the best methodology to your research and ultimately business objectives

At HRW, we know the value that an IDI can bring, and strongly believe that they should not now, nor ever be considered to have outlived their usefulness and be cast aside as an outmoded format of interaction. This belief is also is well understood outside the market research arena as one-on-one formats are often used in job interviewing, discussions around sensitive issues, breaking difficult news etc. As such, it must surely be all about the ‘how and when’ for an IDI, rather than ‘if and could’. For example, HCPs can often be less comfortable with more innovative approaches (lagging behind their patients from that perspective) and an IDI format represents a more familiar level of engagement.

Admittedly, the backbone of a standard IDI has not changed much over the years and we have all seen hundreds of them before, right? They are not sexy or new, it’s an hour spent watching the back of your moderator’s head which, admittedly, is potentially far less interesting than watching two patients engaging directly with one another and asking those sensitive questions which we would never think (or feel appropriate enough) to ask. That’s real insight, many excited voices might loudly proclaim. And absolutely, I would agree that other approaches do capture amazing and inspiring insights, but don’t forget to think about what IDIs have to offer you; intimacy, inspiration and insight, the incisive chat that, for example, can encourage patients to open up in most unexpected ways thereby changing the way that you think in the blink of an eye. The voice of the individual is therefore not lost, but valued above all and the granularity of insight that can be captured in those 60 minutes is often astounding, as respondent and moderator develop the stronger relationship that allows us to cut through standard rote answers to get to the more nuanced and meaningful thoughts beneath.

As such, there are so many scenarios in which we do and will continue to actively recommend IDIs. The humble one-on-one can be expertly placed to form the cornerstone of a piece of research (such as material testing, robust pathway exploration or positioning), and function as either the robust foundation as a single approach in a study or the foundation upon which other approaches can be built, in order to provide a fully holistic methodological approach. Our ecosystem methodology for example, (designed for patient pathway/treatment journey mapping where there is often co-management of patients), which brings different stakeholders, provides the helicopter insight of the dynamic within a group and the extent to which individuals influence one another, but ecosystem research would not be recommended in isolation. Getting that one-on-one with respondents, and understanding their individual roles in detail, provides context and informs group interactions, capturing insights that would be challenging to encourage in a group environment.

Ensuring the full benefits of IDIs are appreciated, when appropriate

So sure, a standard IDI could be easily dismissed as ‘old fashioned’ but to do so, thereby fostering doubt as to whether they still hold value, would be a mistake. If need be, change the game up, shorten your discussion guides, increase their dynamic impact and perhaps be a little unexpected once in a while, but don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of those precious 60 minutes, and take your research microscope one or more steps closer to the truth.


By Kirsty Page

Apply Now!

Get in touch:

    I would like to receive news and information from HRW
    I agree to the HRW privacy policy

      Sign up to our newsletter

      If you wish to hear about our latest blogs, podcasts, webinars, and team news, simply enter your email to sign up to our monthly newsletter.


      We use cookies to give you the best possible experience. We can also use it to analyze the behavior of users in order to continuously improve the website for you. Data Policy

      analytical Essential