How to Build an Effective Multinational Research Team

Ilka Kuhagen
Marketing Insights e-newsletter
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Key Takeaways

  • In qualitative research, there are more parties involved, and as soon as projects are rolled out across borders, the more essential it becomes for the researchers to work together as a team in order to ensure the success of the study.
  • Communicating important details in a written format can help overcome language barriers and reduce misunderstandings, which is especially important on an international level.
  • Multinational research projects require stricter project management while accepting local input and flexibility where needed.

Multinational research adds another layer of challenges to any qualitative research project. In a quantitative study, a few core people are involved to set up the study and then run it as identical as possible in all other markets, but in qualitative research, there are more parties involved, and as soon as projects are rolled out across borders, the more essential it becomes for the researchers to work together as a team in order to ensure the success of the study.

The client or project lead should make sure to attend all of the sessions in real-time, if possible. This ensures that cultural differences or questions can be considered during the course of the project, and any necessary changes are made right away. Web-streaming is a very useful tool to allow for real-time presence during international projects so that travelling can be kept at a minimum. If possible, it’s best to start the project in a country that’s familiar to the client in order to elicit learnings and fine-tune the project according to the client’s wishes before it’s rolled out on an international level.

The moderator or coordinator has to make sure that the whole team is in the loop and understands the conditions under which a project is undertaken and what progress has been made. It’s most important that all members of the project team are always at the same level of information and nothing gets lost in different streams of communication. Furthermore, it is the coordinator’s role to add extra time to the schedule to provide for possible delays.

A good interpreter is of great importance and has to be selected accordingly. In a multi-country study, the voice of the interpreter might be the only voice the client hears, and thus, the success of the study and the experience of the moderator is only as good as the interpreter who will pass on real-time findings to the client. In addition, a local translator can include his or her knowledge into the questionnaire, making sure to adapt it to each country’s situation.

Once you’ve hired the right team for the right roles, it’s important to follow these best practices to ensure effective collaboration:

1. Communicate everything in writing. Communicating important details in a written format can help overcome language barriers and reduce misunderstandings that might arise during a phone call, for instance. This is especially important on an international level, in which not everyone speaks English as a first language.

2. Involve all team members in all phases of the project. Questionnaire design requires multicultural input and adjustment to the regional requirements. In addition, the analysis, even if done centrally, will need to be checked by local moderators to provide culturally relevant background information. 

3. Make the same template available to everyone for the final report. In this way, throughout the study, the participants in the different countries work toward the same goal, and everyone is aware of what the exact outcome is supposed to be.​​​

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Author Bio:

 
Ilka Kuhagen
Ilka Kuhagen is co-founder of market research alliance Think Global Qualitative and co-chair of the QRCA International Committee.

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