Editor’s note: Maxwell Wang is founder of marketing research firm Researchism, China.  

There is a saying passed among pilots during World War II that is still used in the military today and loved by football coaches:

“Instead of defaulting to what’s right in front of us, we must keep shifting our perspective. Doing so can help us find more information, more of the story, the missing piece, the right path, the true intent or even the way out.”

In this article, I’ll dive into how this way of thinking that can improve marketing research insight – visual intelligence.

The concept of visual intelligence can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci, who attributed his scientific and artistic achievements to saper vedere, or the ability to observe.

How can we enhance visual intelligence or insight, apply it to qualitative research to analyze markets and customers and dig deeper into insights? Can we train our brains to observe more accurately and increase our insights? And how can we maximize our innate abilities in information gathering, strategic thinking and critical thinking to enhance our insights?

To help answer the questions above, I have selected and summarized three perspectives from Amy E. Herman's book "Visual Intelligence" that are beneficial for enhancing insights in qualitative research, along with our company’s relevant project experience and results: 

When we observe and design research methods, we should ensure that all senses are utilized.

What information can you obtain from the following picture?

Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life. Boston Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 

If we stand in the perspective of the female bartender, feeling the environment she is in, will we experience:

Inspiration for qualitative research 

Whether in observation or in designing research methods, we should not only use our ey...