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Like Strangers in an Airport

Every time I’m in the airport, I’m fascinated by the many different people surrounding me, each with their own different look, background, and story. I find myself imagining where they’re headed. I picture a whole life for these airport strangers as they hurry past.

Encountering new people and new stories is one of life’s greatest pleasures. By hearing from others, we expand our understanding of what’s possible. We get to enjoy the benefit of many years of experience without having actually lived those years ourselves.

Working in market research is like being in an airport terminal, except instead of only fantasizing about strangers’ identities and preoccupations, we get to satisfy that curiosity and ask those questions.

Market research is about learning what motivates people, about the problems and solutions they uniquely see, who they are and who they’d like to be. By connecting with others in such a way, we’re not only doing our jobs; we’re feeding a fundamental curiosity and giving a voice to customers above and beyond the vote of their dollar.

And like strangers in an airport, participants in one market research study tend to come from vastly different backgrounds than those in another. Being able to learn from such highly varied walks of life offers us the opportunity to broaden our own views and beliefs, to melt down the apparent contradictions and tensions, and to be bigger, better people.  For that, we should be exceedingly grateful.

While not everyone gets paid to talk to strangers, the same joy of discovery is available to anyone willing to reach out to the person sitting next to them. The next time you’re in an airport terminal, strike up a conversation. You can’t imagine what you’ll learn.


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