4.1.4 And, Overall . . .

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It all seems a bit, well, simple and ‘just so’ to me. Not very ‘high-powered’. After all

that effort for a whole hour, both of us got this feeling of ‘So what?’ Where are the

blinding revelations? How do I know that these constructs are the right ones? The

ones which are really important to the interviewee? How do I know that I haven’t

missed any? If I were to repeat the same exercise tomorrow, what guarantee is there

that I’d get the same constructs from the same interviewee?

All good questions, each of them with good answers which I’ll provide in

subsequent sections. For the time being, though, consider . . .

Firstly, if you get a ‘so-what’ feeling, it may be yoooou. . . ! It may be that you

need a little more practice to give your interviewee a chance to express

themselves. Perhaps you might learn some advanced techniques, to get at the

really exciting material that’s there. There’s a lot more to come, on how to

identify a person’s core constructs, personal values, and belief system. Take

your time. These are only your first two grids. Once you’re up to speed, you’ll

surprise yourself.

Secondly, it’s useful to remember that, in some applications, straightforward

descriptions may be a little dull, but nevertheless, very helpful, because they

represent stuff we didn’t know before. For example, the evaluative scales

(constructs!) that people use when they think about the cheese they buy may

not be self-evident and, on closer examination using grid techniques, these

may seem a little, how shall we put it, unspectacular? But then, you’re not a

market researcher (most of you, anyway).

‘Sharp – smooth’, ‘runny – hard’ may be obvious to you, but ‘sweet aftertaste –

bitter aftertaste’; ‘moist – dry’, ‘tastes foreign – tastes like a proper cheese’;

‘tastes of itself – tastes of the herbs and other flavourings they put in it’ may

not have occurred to you when you first thought about cheese – or to anyone

else either. This sort of basic information, clunky and banal to you, could be

worth its weight in gold to the market researcher who’s advising a cheese

producer. (A true story, actually. Read all about it in O’Cinneide, 1986: the

Cheesecraft case.)

Thirdly, the value in a set of basic, descriptive constructs may come from

what’s not there. Stewart & Stewart (1982) give an example which lists the

characteristics of an effective merchant banker, as construed by a group of

merchant bankers, and these constructs seem a bit, well – as you’d expect:

‘good planner’ (as opposed to someone who spends no time in planning

ahead), ‘strategic thinker’, etc., etc. What’s the point of a grid which shows you

what you’d expect to see? But what is not listed is a set of characteristics which

could, without the benefit of the grid investigation, have been equally

plausible but which, in fact, don’t pertain and are indeed irrelevant to and

misleading for the particular job in question.

‘Effective negotiator versus poor at negotiating’, ‘sporty and sociable versus

shy and withdrawn’, could conceivably be relevant when trying to decide

what attributes a merchant banker should have, but it so happens that they’re

not, full stop. Job descriptions, appraisals, and selection procedures based on

them would be seriously misleading.

Grids are very useful in dissecting conventional wisdoms. They distinguish

between the plausible stereotype and the humdrum actuality, where accuracy,

rather than excitement, is what matters.

If you’re happy with the answers to the preceding questions in Sections 4.1.1–

4.1.3, you’ve learnt a lot! So bear with me awhile on this last one. (And, in the

meanwhile, if you still have a niggling little question that hasn’t been covered

above, try one or other of the websites mentioned in the ‘Things to Read’

section of Chapter 9.)

For the moment, though, be assured that the grid is a powerful but

straightforward technique for providing you with descriptions of the

main constructs which an interviewee uses to make sense of a given


And now, please complete Exercise 4.1 at the

end of this chapter.

When you’re done, come back to Section 4.2.