Vivian Harris, Founder and President
Vivian is inspired by the stories people tell her.
Cool and unflappable, Vivian has a knack for asking the critical questions that arise in the moment. She creates a safe, comfortable atmosphere for participants across focus groups and interviews, both online and off.
Vivian has decades of experience in qualitative and quantitative research design and execution. Before founding VMHQ Research in 2008, she built her career at prominent New England research firms, leading projects, managing operations, and mentoring staff. With expertise in healthcare, media, women, and unique consumer and B2B populations, Vivian is adept at navigating sensitive topics, plumbing the depths of the issue at hand, and crafting actionable business recommendations.
She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.A. in English from the University of Chicago. Equally at home in the cultural buzz of New York City and the woods of Maine, Vivian lives about an hour north of Boston with her husband. Together, they have two grown daughters and two demanding dogs.
Through VMHQ, Vivian is supported by a team of partners that allows her to scale or specialize to meet the needs of any client project.
Q & A with Vivian
What’s is your ideal project?
Honestly, that’s an impossible question to answer—much like, which is your favorite child? Every project with a clear objective and engaged clients is enjoyable, because I am on a journey with my clients, and we both know the outlines of the territory before us, but not the detail within it. And filling in that detail with the results of the research is highly satisfying work. Beyond that, the most interesting projects of all are exploratory projects; in other words, when a client wants to understand a particular type of customer or segment of the population more deeply. In this case, clients tend not to have a preconceived notion of where we will end up. When they are very open to learning, we can do some creative things to explore a world they don’t know much about.
How does qualitative research fit into the age of big data?
I think it’s an important and necessary complement. Data is clearly where we are and where we will continue to be, as so much of our activity and behavior are tracked and shared and analyzed. But that alone tells really only part of the story. It’s still important to hear people talk about their lives and their passions, what happens inside them between the actions they take, what motivates them to try something completely different, what addresses their fears and anxieties. I recently completed a study where the data about a segment’s behavior led the client to a quite rational conclusion, but some deep qualitative research has uncovered more complexity and a potential opportunity that was not initially apparent. So, again: qualitative research is an important complement to big data.