Communicating Simply When Faced With Chaotic Complexity

When surveying business partner or customer concerns in companies that have complex ecosystems, one technique we have used for several years is the tag cloud.  They are used to summarize the concerns, recommendations and commendations heard during qualitative in-depth interviews.  Two assumptions are made: that each and every interviewee’s opinion carries equal weight, which in practice is not true because some customers have more buying power than others; and that if a customer or partner mentions something several times, it carries more weight than something mentioned only once, which again may not be true, because that one mention, might be a deeply felt root cause.  From the notes of the interview, customer comments are categorized so they can be tallied across all interviews.  Then we go to wordle.net  and paste those words in.

Customer concerns tag cloud

Customer concerns tag cloud

We end up with a quick and easy way of showing frequency of mention.  The bigger the word, the more often it was mentioned.  We find it carries more visual impact than a bar chart and sticks in the mind longer.   To overcome the faults that lie with the above assumptions, we also recommend that clients read the notes made during the interviews to get a flavour of the gist of those conversations.

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