Rigid flexibility in research: Seeing the opportunities in “failed” qualitative research

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This article highlights an experience of failing within a qualitative research study. Specifically, the authors speak to the failure of recruiting participants in conducting synchronous video and telephone interviews. Drawing from literature in the fields of business and examples from research method texts to demonstrate the cross-disciplinary concerns and insights of failure within one’s work, the authors discuss how failure can be reframed as opportunity through the lens of “rigid flexibility” and the innovative steps they implemented.

Providing additional insight into the process of framing and reframing failure in research, the authors integrate poetic inquiry as a tool for reflection to highlight their process and suggested steps for new researchers. The authors argue that researchers can approach studies with the idea that failures in the planning and/or execution of research can lead to opportunities and new insights.
• “What is already known?” Failure has been extensively examined from a business perspective, such as the ways in which failure can lead to new thinking, innovation, and opportunities.
• “What this paper adds?” This article adds to the discussion of failure in research by suggesting the applicability of business thinking – of new thinking, innovation, and opportunities – transferable to a concept we are calling, “rigid flexibility.” Likewise, our discussion speaks to early career researchers in providing step-by-step guidance using embodied practice and poetic inquiry in how to develop rigid flexibility in research studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Journal of Qualitative Methods
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • qualitative research
  • research methods
  • flexibility in research
  • rigid flexibility
  • cross-disciplinary
  • interdisciplinary
  • video interviews
  • interviews
  • synchronous
  • asynchronous

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