Pointy-Haired Boss Says “Research Is Stupid”
Does this sound familiar? I hope not, and I am happy to report that I have never encountered a business manager or senior executive who would say that research is stupid. Instead they might use words like ineffective, off-target, expensive, irrelevant, over-complicated, unhelpful, and so on. Indeed, there is a lot of research that is all those things, and if truth be told, making research effective and helpful is one of the hardest jobs we have. It is just too darn easy to execute research that looks fancy but doesn’t do much good in helping executives make decisions.
How do you make research more effective and helpful, then? We recommend keeping two issues always at the forefront of your thinking as you work your way through a research assignment:
1. Keep sharpening your focus on the questions that need to be answered. For us, this means working with clients upfront to clarify exactly what information they can use, vs. data that will not likely change decisions however relevant and interesting the data may be. We continually revisit and reassess those questions throughout a project, all the way into fieldwork, analysis, and reporting. Almost always, the focus is continually shifting, requiring a shift in our strategy for the end product to be effective.
2. Extract (and tell) the story in the data. For us, this means returning to the central questions that need to answered, finding just the right confluence of data points that answer those questions in a direct and compelling way, and leaving all the rest of those charts and tables and interesting research findings in an appendix for another day.
Need help? Here are a few in-depth articles to get you started:
Turning Data Into Stories: A How-To Guide
And of course feel free to give us a call! We’ll help you and your team execute research that will have even the most critical bosses admitting that research can indeed be helpful.