A major educational component of our trip was collaborating with Dell, Inc. and Sentient Services (Dell’s research provider) to conduct qualitative research on technology usage in the context of small and medium businesses in Guangzhou, China.
The research was commissioned by Barry Jennings, Head of Global Insights at Dell and a member of the A.C. Nielsen External Advisory Board. Leading up to the trip, John Burton and I (appointed project leads) coordinated with Sentient Services on logistics, screener and questionnaire design, and laying out the preliminary report format.
Over a two-day research timeline, most of my fellow classmates had a chance to attend onsite in-depth interviews with local business owners, where Barry and the research team explored such topics as perceived current business environment, daily life of the business, and technology practices and needs. Some of us also attended focus groups with business or technology leaders in these small enterprises, where similar topics were discussed.
The project gave us a great opportunity to be a part of a global research project for a major company and learn more about the intricacies and challenges associated with conducting such projects on an international scale. We had to change logistics on the fly, capture insights through the lens of a translator, and respectfully adjust to local customs and interaction styles. On the research preparation stage, we needed to be aware of language specifics in wording questionnaires.
Other great learnings that the Dell project provided were a glimpse into small business operations in China, their successes and challenges, culture, vision, and work practices. What impressed me personally was how enthusiastic business leaders were in welcoming us to their offices and telling us about their business. China is experiencing “growing pains” of uncertainty and corruption in parallel to economic expansion, making it even harder to own and sustain a healthy enterprise. It was heartwarming to see their passion, pride, entrepreneurial spirit, and optimistic outlook for the future.