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Thoughts About a Field Research Masterclass

Field research operates with a single goal: To better understand the world.

While ethnographic data, quantitative data, and analytics provide insights into what people do and how, only well run ethnographic research can reveal why people behave as they do. Understanding why is fundamental to have an impact on product, design, brand, strategy, policy and communications.

The most unique insights are often gathered outside the boundaries of our comfort zones. Whether it’s travelling to new cultures or markets, places with limited infrastructure, or where people find ways around laws and rules.

What is required is an open mindset for operating in these challenging environments so that one can empathise and truly begin to understand the context of the people and processes.

A Field Visit in Rural India

In a time and age that encourages desk research, I got an opportunity to conduct some field research as a part of the National Digital Livestock Mission’s discovery phase. My plan was to shadow a government Veterinary posted in a remote village of Karnataka for a day to make observations about his daily routine, ask him questions about his professional life and learn more about the context and system he was working in.

The following diagram documents the various activities that go on in a Vet Dispensary in the form of a timeline over the day. It also contains notes about the various activities, responsibilities, quotes, problems and opportunity areas that the vets feel. More about this in a future post.

Thoughts about the process behind field research

I'm toying with the idea of a Field Research service offering for organisations and teams that will essentially prepare you to gather better insights and result in outcomes. Here's a brain dump of all those thoughts.

I believe a project and organization needs the right data and right mindset to use the data to thrive. My approach to field research: from how to build a research team and interact with them, to structuring live/work spaces that are optimised for information gathering and ideation, embracing ethical issues and cultural nuances at the front lines of data collection, and more recently, can field research be done remotely?

Do you feel like your product teams need more inputs about your users' behaviors? Have you felt that your research isn't informing your business goals? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Some questions to begin with:

  • What are the skills, tools and processes that should be in place to gain the most out of the field visit?

  • What are our legal and moral obligations to do the right thing by our local team, the people we interact with and our organisation?

  • And how to do it in such a way that informs and inspires our teams, while managing risk and maintaining the integrity of the organisation?


  1. Research Planning

  2. Building Effective International Teams

  3. Fieldwork Dynamics

MODULE 1: Research Planning

This module introduces my approach to running exemplary international field study projects to inspire and inform teams and organisations.


  • Logistics and planning

  • Risk assessment

  • Priming the team for field work travel

  • Effective cross-cultural team dynamics

  • Identifying and mitigating cultural and cognitive biases

  • The evolution of understanding from hypothesis to impact

  • Recruiting strategies

  • Remote sensing


Understand team attributes, identify gaps

  • Finding the best local researchers, translators, fixers and guides

  • Screening and onboarding suitable candidates

  • Building and maintaining trust

  • In-person and remotely run research

  • Tips for long term successful relationships


How to ensure your team can hit the ground running wherever in the world they are tasked with running research? How to bring the best out of your team members on fast paced and challenging projects?

  • Setting up and running popup studios

  • Working with cross-cultural teams

  • Rapid calibration techniques

  • Ensuring the optimal mix of data

  • Maintaining data integrity

  • Managing clients and the organisation

  • Ethics

  • Team and client psychology


The masterclass will be delivered via Zoom video conferencing with hands-on break out activities—as well as allocated time for conversations drawing on collective wisdom of the participants.


The workshop is for anyone creating products and services for an international audience, including: designers, researchers, insights and innovation teams, in agencies, in-house, local and central government.


The Field Study Fundamentals Masterclass is led by Ruchin Shah. He has applied research to product, strategy, brand and communications for ten+ years.

What do you think of such initiatives?

Would you sign up to learn more?

Hit me up to let me know!

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