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One Good Question, Millions of Bad Answers


It has never been so easy to find an answer to a question you have. It’s so easy, that one of the most widely accessible tools for finding answers has found its way into common parlance - Have a question? Just ‘Google it!’ In effect, we’ve been empowered with the collective repository of all of the information in the world in our pockets. This is a truly incredible and unprecedented feat of technology, and while empowering, it comes with it’s own powerful and novel set of challenges.


For starters, simply having more information at our fingertips does not mean that it’s any easier to interpret it. If anything, wading through more numbers, words, accounts of events, and opinions can make it even more challenging to find a story that makes any sense at all. And even if you can make it all make sense, that’s no guarantee of the truth or verifiability of any of the information used to build that story!


This illuminates a challenge that everybody who’s ever used Google can relate to - How do you phrase the question? It’s never been easier to find precisely the answer that you are looking for - to load the question - but if you’re seeking information to confirm what you already know, that means you are never learning anything. And we haven’t met a single person who has all of the answers, much less anybody with a clue who’s unwilling to learn, change, and grow.


When you’re trying to understand customer opinions within a market, phrasing the question the wrong way to your survey-takers can cause more bias in a dataset than using phony statistics, not using a representative sample, or working with diminutive sample sizes. As researchers, we take great pains to be sure we’re interpreting numbers the right way, but it’s far more important to be sure that the numbers describe something true in the first place.


This is why it’s crucial in questionnaire design to check assumptions, strip away industry knowledge, and ask questions in a way that any answer becomes possible. If there are only a couple of acceptable options to your question, it’s probably loaded. We don’t by any means want to imply that this is easy to do! That’s why at Advantage Research, we’ve been writing sound questions for 30 years and interpreting answers that don’t just make sense, but are accurate and verifiable. That’s our value, and that’s your Advantage!


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These explorations are inspired by School of Thought's Critical Thinking card decks - check out their website for more information.