The American author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston once said “Research is formalised curiosity”.
As a company who thrives on a relentless curiosity, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that, here at Waracle, we have formalised that relentless curiosity into a research discipline that supports our commercial, our customer and our delivery offices.
But why start with research?
Because great outcomes are driven by robust research and vice versa. Our teams believe that product definition, incremental optimisation and product innovation both feeds upon, and supports our ongoing research.
Let us explain.
Having a research mindset is key
A research mindset is humble, empathetic and curious. It doesn’t pre-suppose or pre-judge.
Our research professionals always aim to start any new piece of research with an open mind and try to suppress their existing biases. We know we need to spend time imbibing information from a myriad of sources and listening to a range of users, employees, stakeholders and commentators to get a holistic understanding of a topic, subject, challenge or product.
By adopting this mentality, we try to look beyond our own experiences to engage, truly, fully & deeply with someone else’s.
And whilst that may sound simple, it really isn’t.
When most businesses engage with users, it is in reference to something that the business wants to achieve, rather than setting out to fully understand the milieu of deeper motivations, behaviours, needs and cultural contexts.
So whether we are supporting sales, delivery, customer success or a client, we always try to think big and wide.
Let’s explore how we do that.
Start with people, not product
To give our teams the best foundation for success, we try to approach the challenge as a completely blank canvas with barely any, or no constraints… and set out to initially just learn more about how the culture, a business, an audience or a user group defines what the problem statement is.
Most people will jump straight into getting stuff done, prior to taking a seat and listening to people describe the particular nuances of their experiences, which means that you are baking in assumptions into your discovery.
Don’t get excited, just pin back your listening ears!
Whether it is a new product, application, value stream, market or prospect. We always aim to start ‘people first’, by collecting high-quality qualitative data and then seeing which thoughts and feelings are compounded in the quantitative data or which of those are contradicted.
By starting with a foundation of learning from other humans, we can see the challenge for what it really is, through the eyes of the people who matter most.
Examine & reflect, do not judge
Judgement is needed at key decision points, but be wary because premature judgement can impede genuine insights.
Researchers have to examine, review and reflect.
The purpose of this is to uncover unspoken signals or behavioural clues as to how people are feeling. Is the public PR different from the internal reality? Do people feel bound by the company Kool-Aid? Has the customer been primed to not be too critical? Are the stakeholders papering over the cracks?
The wonderful Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once said “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”… and we hold this dear as something that should orient us, whether we are in the commercial team, design team, research or marketing.
Just remember, it is too easy to blame the end user for not being savvy enough or engaged enough… but sometimes the reflection should be on the difficulties as they experience them.
Park judgement until the moment requires it.
Don’t be afraid to return to the start
In many organisations, research is a ‘one and done’… or project-based exercise.
In a world where Cloud infrastructure and SaaS has enabled product development, release and distribution to be an iterative process, the onus is on individuals within agile teams to bake in the right analytics implementations to gather data to support additional research, insights and hypothesis generation, to ensure that user research is continuously applied to the product from ideation to development to testing and refinement to optimisation.
By embedding research in product teams and making the roles interdependent, it ensures there’s a dedicated resource that engages with customers on a continuous basis.
Like painting our beloved Forth Rail Bridge, it is only once you have got to the end, that you realise it is time to return to the start.
Democratise access to your research
Research supports business development in prospecting, sales teams in bringing on new clients, accounts and customer success in developing existing client relationships… not just software development teams in spec’ing, designing and building high-quality digital products.
So creating the awareness, engagement and action around research and insights, is the most important job. Not just hiring talented researchers and placing them somewhere in the hope that someone will find them.
Collaboration between the thinking, the communicating, the doing and the reviewing bits of your business is key to future success. Research is a role that is only going to grow in value in 2022 and beyond.
As discussed above, we are open-minded people here in research… So whilst we think research is super important (and getting more so), you may think otherwise. If so we’d love to hear from you, we love discussing how best to approach purposeful, innovative design and development of mobile, web and emerging tech applications. Our teams of talented technologists are waiting to hear about what you are building and how you are building it – so do get in touch.
To leave you with another quote to get the old grey matter firing, Bill Gates once said “I believe in innovation and the only way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.”