From the desk of Carole Schmidt
Pop quiz! Think about the last research project you did. What proportion of your time was assigned to design, logistics/set-up, execution, analysis, and reporting?
If you’re putting anything less than 30% of your project muscle into the design stage, securing the foundation of the project, I contend that you’re likely wasting your valuable time and research dollars.
What fills that 30% proportion of time? Planning for success. We like to call this “The Wonder Session.” This is not a project “kick-off.” This is what happens in the most successful research projects well before the kick-off.
Another meeting. We hear the groans. However, I’ve never left one of these sessions where the team didn’t have greater cohesion and increased precision about what we really wanted to accomplish in the research. Including your research partners to hear it all makes The Wonder Session even better. The result? Thoughtful design, richer insights, and smarter business decisions.
Five essential elements comprise “The Wonder Session.” Yes, in this order:
- State the research objectives: What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? What is the business decision that needs to be made? What has led to this research need? Are you really seeking, e.g., appeal, perceived competition, or product distinction? Putting in time to define the problems fully and in-depth makes them easier to solve, which means saving time, money and resources.
- Present existing research: What do we already know related to this challenge? What don’t we know enough about? What do we believe is still true? Meta-analysis of primary and secondary research saves money by utilizing existing knowledge, and clarifies research gaps. And examining previous research further defines who exactly we need to speak with, and most importantly, illustrates why their voices matter to your business in this research effort.
- Probe the stakeholder voice: Who are the stakeholders that matter most? What are stakeholders’ needs vs. wants? What investment, resources, and capabilities are available? There’s nothing worse than retrofitting stakeholders’ concerns after research is in the field. Allocate time to surface stakeholder agendas, note (and share!) the political watch-outs, consider the what-if’s well before the project is a “go.”
- Capture team members’ hypotheses: There’s no better way to refine objectives than by listening to team members’ expected results. How do they think the customer will respond? Press further–what are the optimal responses, the language and commentary that they’d love to hear? In what ways do they expect (or hope) participantswill express their needs? Make a list of hypotheses, guard it, and bring it back for the post-field analysis.
- Refine the research objectives and “criteria for success”: After completing the above steps, revisit the initially stated objectives with a red pen. Now, who is really the target? What do we expect to learn from those key participants? What is “need to know” vs. “nice to have?” And end The Wonder Session by defining the 3-5 elements of a successful project; what will a successful project deliver?
Consider The Wonder Session the “breakfast” of your project–as we all know, the most important meal of the day! Putting more muscle into the up-front, pre-field planning serves as the “protein” of the research project—it’s filling, satisfying, and provides lasting energy. The reward? Efficient and insightful research learning that will ultimately help move your business forward.
NOW it’s time for the formal research kick-off meeting with your core team and your qualitative strategists. Go forth and prosper!