Do you ever feel like you are in a constant loop of doing? No matter how hard you work, there’s always more to do. And with just one small step in the wrong direction, you can wind up miles off course.
You are not alone! A recent Quirk’s corporate research report found that the biggest pain points for managing and conducting research were:
- too many projects for the budget
- too many projects for the staff
Sense a theme? Resources are scarce. When resources are scarce, it is critical you maximize their value. Yet, according to Boston Consulting Group, only 30% of C-level executives are satisfied with the effectiveness of customer insights on business decisions. This jives with the Quirks report that states that almost 85% of researchers aren’t able to get action based on research insights at least some of the time. That is a great deal of time, effort and money not utilized to the fullest!
To end research regret, you need to understand the causes. So, here are the five most common drivers of regret to avoid and some tips for avoiding them.
At CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando with Piotr Szymski, Head of Insights/Business Intelligence at Sony Music Entertainment, Carol will detail how these measures can be applied.
1. Who’s Driving?
The most common cause of research regret is that the right business partners aren’t involved in the design of a project at the start. In fact, including the right stakeholders at the start is critical to clarify the real problems and opportunities that will guide you in aligning the research project’s objectives.
The downside is especially pronounced when any of the following are missing:
- Key decision influencers
- Those responsible for executing changes based on insights
When the right people aren’t involved in a project, there will likely be big misses.
2. Hitting The Accelerator Too Quickly
Another way to look at lack of Involvement is when the insights team isn’t brought into a business challenge or opportunity early enough.
Speed is everything in business. Customers expect almost instant gratification, and insights clients aren’t any different. If business isn’t nimble or lacks the ability to evolve and grow quickly, it will be outpaced by the competition. But the pressure for speed comes at a cost. This desire to “do something” leads to “do anything”. In the rush to “get ‘er done” the design and planning stages of the project are rushed.
When faced with problems, humans naturally respond with action even when it is counterproductive. A study of professional soccer goalies found that while a goalie has the highest chance of stopping a penalty kick if they stay in the center of the goal versus diving left or right, goalies rarely stay in that spot.
So, why don’t they stand where they should? Because it feels and looks better to take action, even if it means diving and missing the ball.
When the Harvard Business Review surveyed participants in their executive education classes, they found that managers feel more productive executing tasks than planning them. Yet, not spending the time thinking strategically at the start of a project can only lead to staff overload and research regret.
3. Those Darn Potholes!
How often have you started a study only to find out later there was critical information related to the context of the study that was missing? For example, you didn’t know a competitor launched a new product so it wasn’t included in a study. Or a needed question wasn’t asked because you didn’t know it was relevant.
Asking probing questions, such as clarifying probes (tell me more about…) and elevating questions (let’s take a step back…) are critical for aligning insights projects with business needs.
In fact, most professionals have a ‘favorites” list of probes they use while designing a study.
Connecting with business partners for this important context shouldn’t just happen at the start of a study. Many research studies can take from 6 to 12 weeks before the results are presented. In a rapidly changing environment, lots can happen in that time frame. It’s imperative that the research team be kept informed of any major external market factors that change during this critical period.
4. Directions by Telephone Game
Does this sound familiar?
- The CMO tells the Brand Marketing Director she needs a market potential assessment for the brand.
- The Brand Marketing Director tells the Insights Director that she needs an assessment of market conditions and growth.
- The Insights Director tells the Insights team analyst to provide an analysis of the market and growth.
- The Insights team analyst provides an analysis of market size and competitive growth.
- What the CMO really wanted in the ‘market potential assessment’ to determine white space growth opportunities.
“Delegation is the passing on of actions, not responsibility” as Eric Edmeades so aptly reminds us. Delegation is important for all managers, but not all managers are effective delegators. Part of effective delegation is clearly defining, communicating, and confirming goals.
Everything just works much better when a leader can define and communicate their goals clearly and consistently.
Unexpected results are inevitable. Unexpected results are tough. Be prepared!
Uncovering “bad news” is part of the job. It’s why you do research. Insights identify risks and opportunities. If all research just confirms the known, it is meaningless.
Often managers prefer past practices or past decisions because it’s an easy and comfortable default. This is a perfect example of status quo bias. People resist change because they fear change. People fear loss of control, the unfamiliar and uncertain, and potential ripple effects.
As insights professionals we need to assure business partners of the potential for unexpected learnings at the beginning and throughout the entire project.
A GPS for Driving Insights that Get Action
Every research professional knows that it’s important to align research with business needs. By now, you should understand that you must have complete clarity on the business problems and opportunities as well as how decisions will be made well before research begins. It’s the only reliable way to deliver insights that get action.
At InsightsCentral, we interviewed corporate insights leaders to identify best practices for this alignment. We discovered that the methods used to align research with business needs vary tremendously.
We also learned that those insights teams with rigorous, consistent, and transparent approaches – based on a well-designed insights brief – were more effective in aligning research with business needs and yielding actionable insights. In essence, these teams use the insights brief process as a GPS – so everyone knows where they are going and how they will get there.
For these insights professionals, this approach helps solve the ‘constant loop of doing.’ Consistently using an insights brief resulted in a more selective focus on fewer, but more impactful, insights-based projects per researcher over the course of a year.
So, point yourself and your teams in the right direction before you hit the accelerator to keep everyone on the right path towards insights that drive success!
Learn more and meet the author when she co-presents with Piotr Szymski, Head of Insights/Business Intelligence at Sony Music Entertainment at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando.
NewsTechniqueCarol Shea – InsightsCentral