Researcher in a Strange Land

Posted on 10. Aug, 2010 by in iGrok Research

In 1961, Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) published Stranger in a Strange Land considered by many to be a masterpiece of science fiction.  One of his ideas in the novel was the construct grok.  It was taken from his protagonist’s experience as an orphaned human raised on Mars by Martians, learning about Martian belief in the oneness of Life, before returning to Earth in early adulthood.  From the book:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed – to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.

The term took hold in the 60’s in such places as Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (describing a character’s thoughts during a drug experience) and in Be Here Now by Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), who quoted from the novel at length. It was also used in a 1969 counterculture Volkswagen repair manual, which encouraged prospective buyers to “grok the car” before purchasing.

Mainstream adoption of the term has occurred over the years since the 1961 novel, with grok being used essentially to mean “to know something so deeply that it becomes part of your identity and has transformed your world view.”

Used in this way, the word passed into the modern computer culture (among other places) to suggest an understanding of hardware and software and their interaction, with grok meaning that the individual understood intuitively the workings of the software and systems they were creating.

We at C.A. Walker apply the term to convey that our collective experience as research consultants has provided us with deep and intuitive understanding.  This makes the intricacies of research design, execution, and analysis second nature to us. We are adept with the approaches that are appropriate for each problem presented.

Our understanding allows us to provide the insightful analysis that comes from our deep connection with the individuals that we study, whether consumers, professionals, or any other audience of individuals.

I grok research – and my goal with this new blog is to impart my thoughts, reactions and insights into what is happening in the strange world around us, as well as my passion for our ever-evolving craft.  In addition to my voice, you’ll also be hearing from my colleagues who will periodically contribute as authors.

We hope you will come back and converse with us.  Whether you are new to research or, like us, have been in the business for many years, we want you to be able to say with pride, “I grok research” too.

For more information, contact Kevin Gentry, Ph.D.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Leave a Reply