NEWS31 March 2023

Research during the war in Ukraine showed the value of empathy

Europe News People Technology Wellbeing

NETHERLANDS – The war in Ukraine shows that technology cannot replace traditional research skills such as empathy and the ability to listen, the IIEX conference in Amsterdam has heard.

Research in Ukraine IIEX conference session

Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Oksana Pleskova, owner at Mustang Research and Consulting, said that while technology was changing the industry faster than “we could ever imagine”, the loss of energy infrastructure in Ukraine over the past year since the Russian invasion underlined the risks of over-relying on technology as a research tool.

Pleskova described carrying out in-depth interviews or focus groups without or with rationed electricity, as well as interviews with people in bomb shelters, and said it underlined the importance of “observing, listening and feeling people so close to you”.

She added: “At some point you realise you did not need those cutting-edge technologies to hear, understand and feel people.
“We have become obsessed with technology, but qual is about humans and empathy.

“Our primary goal as researchers is to hear, understand and feel people, and no technology can replace being present at this point and our ability to sit next to each other and talk.”

She said that the primacy of profit was another concept quickly abandoned during the war, and instead her most important lesson was people that if you care about people, profit will eventually follow.

“Profit is important for both clients and researchers,” Pleskova added. “But when people were starving, we all stopped thinking about profit.

“Opinions and behaviour preferences were changing, and those changes occurred faster than you could do any research. And certainly, it was not the time to discuss lollipops, beer or fashion.

“Our business was paralysed, but we continued paying salaries and taxes – we cared about employees and tried to encourage them, keep optimistic ourselves and inspire our colleagues. We didn’t have profit, but we maintained humans, and we kept our team.”