There’s a bit of a paradox built into the best research. Successful projects require zeroing in on what you want and need to understand. But they also call for thinking expansively and remembering nothing happens in a vacuum.
The best research — and researchers — can focus on a few core questions without losing context, peripheral vision, or the big picture. How?
If you could get inside the mind of a researcher and eavesdrop, you’d discover they are ALWAYS learning about people, making connections and filing away insights. An early morning Uber ride to the airport becomes an in-depth interview on apps for international texting – the who, what, when, where, why. Waiting with other moms at school pick-up morphs into a small-group discussion about “me time,” its elusive nature and the brands that seem to get it.
We ask because we are naturally inquisitive people and we genuinely enjoy learning about people’s lives. The trick is that what we discover organically gets put to use in ways we never quite expect – ways that go beyond finding a new app for ourselves or trying a different brand.
The best research unfolds within this culture of curiosity, exploration and wonder – one that’s not conjured up, plotted out or structured anew for a given challenge. Against a backdrop of spontaneous, ongoing gathering of insights, habits, attitudes and desires, we can make more sense of discrete pieces of information in formal research.
When we turn our attention to telling a particular story – why a brand is struggling, how audiences are migrating among platforms, where a cutting edge technology will take hold – we intuitively and even unconsciously use everything we know to create a rich narrative. The more that we’ve taken in, regardless of the source, the more nuanced the output we’re able to produce.
So if you’re hungry for better research, ask the unrelated question. Consider random connections. Listen to everything. And then? Please come tell me what you’ve learned.