Anyone that has stood still around me for long enough will know I’m a bit of a bike geek. (Amongst many other things).

The other side of the fence

This morning was the first time in a while I cycled into work – and despite the weather warnings, the rain, the wind, the cold, and the dark, I LOVED it.

As any seasoned commuter will guess, the worst part of my commute is having to deal with other people. Whether these are pedestrians stepping out into the cycle lane at the last minute, or motorists deciding they can’t be bothered to wait for a slow cyclist – I am almost guaranteed to come into the office cursing.

Despite having a few near-misses on the bike, I experienced my first near-miss in the car the other day, and yes – it shook me up just as much. It felt strange to be on the other side of the fence, the motorist screaming at the cyclist as he shot past me with no lights before running the red light ahead.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot– and I think it’s all about relative perceptions. I’ve heard that whilst 95% of cyclists on the roads are motorists, only 10% of motorists on the road are cyclists. (I have no references for this “fact”, I suppose it’s more of an urban myth, but I like it).

Until you’re on the “other side of the fence”, can you really know what it is like? Do you really understand the experience? I don’t like that I’m starting to sound like my Nana, and I’m not going to start spouting proverbs about other people’s shoes, but the principle is true.

In how many other parts of my life have I truly experienced being on both sides of this fence? I have never been part of a focus group, or have done a depth interview as a respondent. I have filled in the odd online survey, but yes, I admit – I often get bored and close the window before it’s over. Perhaps I should be trying harder to know and understand the experience research participants are going through?

We always try and understand the research experience from “the other side of the fence” – we often spend some time with research participants at the end of interviews or communities to discuss the process and how it could have been improved. We are keen to understand any ways in which the research participants could be made more at ease or more comfortable, or any suggestions for improving any part of the research.

My question is: should we going a step further with this as an industry? Should we be spending time grilling each other and running pilot depth interviews at market research conferences, as well as milling about, eating cake and networking? (Not forgetting all of the other important stuff that happens at conferences, of course)!

If you have any other suggestions of things we could be doing to improve this “other side of the fence” blindness, let me know on Twitter @MustardBethan.