The Need to go Beyond Surveys + 3 Tips

I was listening to a princess fairy-tale with my daughter the other night. It was about a sad princess and the king wanted to cheer her up. “I’ll paint the palace yellow, that will cheer her up!” he thought. The entire palace was painted yellow, but the princess did not cheer up. Thinking creatively, the king said “I know, the castle must be the wrong shape!” and had the square castle pulled down and rebuilt into a heart shape. Still, the princess was sad. “It must be the cold weather here, then.” and he moved the entire castle to Spain, which in turn made the princess even sadder.

From here the story went on a long rant about a contest to make the princess laugh for her hand in marriage (is that really how things used to work?!) but that is not my point in telling you this. What was going through my mind was, “Why don’t you just ask the princess why she is so sad?!”.

I see organizations make assumptions like this all the time with data surveys. Our supporters are unhappy! It must be the color of our castle/website/etc. To truly understand what is happening in people’s minds, you need to talk to them, understand their experience, and make it better.


If you’ve tried this before, I know what you might be thinking – “We asked them what they wanted, gave them what they asked for, and they still didn’t like it”. This is a key to understanding beyond data – people aren’t great at articulating what they want! There is an art to determining what people say they want from what they will choose when it comes down to decision-making time. This art is a combination of conversation and prediction and can be practiced through a process known as human-centered design.

At teenyBIG we are passionate about this type of research and have mastered how to dig deep into what motivates people, then use that information to create, test, and iterate on new ideas to find what most motivates supporters. But, you certainly don’t have to be an expert or outsider to start. Here are 3 ways you can make sure you are thinking beyond your data.

Ask Why?
Look for opportunities to ask ‘why?’ If your data scores poorly in certain areas, start asking people why they think that. Is there a larger, underlying problem or are there small changes you can make to improve their perspective?

Think cross-culturally
People can answer surveys differently depending on their culture. Perhaps they are being ‘nice’ about something that upset them or judge experiences with a more critical eye. Talk to a diversity of your supporters to find out more.

Emotional Jobs-to-be-Done
Ok, so ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ is a serious-sounding phrase I recently learned but really just a way to think beyond the tactics of what you offer. What emotional elements might not come across in your data research? Are your supporters seeking inclusiveness, comradery, or accomplishment when they work with you? Ask them to learn more.

These tips for digging beyond data will help you break through dangerous assumptions that you might be making about your supporters – are they really unhappy because the castle isn’t yellow?! Discovering the whys and nuances behind your data will get you to the best solution more quickly – because the fastest solution isn’t always a straight line! And if you are stuck or unsure of what to do next, call teenyBIG for a free consultation.