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Research is not about Rationalizing Your Opinion

Fast & Simple Breakdown of How To Actually Use Research to Drive Decisions

Let’s say you want to go to Cyprus for vacation. You saw a travel blogger post a photo of a beach with crystalline aqua water winking under mild yellow rays descending from the sky and you said to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if I was there?” You don’t want to go alone so you decide to convince two of your best friends to come along for the ride.

“Why Cyprus though?” Friend-Who-Loves-Salsa-Dancing asks. “I love dancing. I haven’t really heard anything about Cyprus having that kind of scene.”

“Yeah, same,” Friend-Who’s-A-Total-Foodie pipes up. “Do you know if there are a lot of restaurants there?”

You pause because you don’t have good answers. You try to backpedal.

“I’ll do some research,” you assure them.

You go back home and dive deep into Cyprus and its culture and lifestyle. You find out that while Cyprus has parties, especially on Nissi Beach, it doesn’t otherwise have a big dance scene. You can take classes for the traditional Cypriot “Syrtos,” which is very popular folk dance for groups and social gatherings though. “My friend can learn a new dance style,” you think to yourself. Then you research food and find out that Cyprus has delicious Mediterranean food that skews Greek. “Perfect, my friend has good food to eat,” you smile.

You go back to your two friends, give them the great news — backed up by research, you proudly announce — and they hesitantly agree.

At this point, perhaps you go on vacation and they end up having a great time or perhaps they end up feeling like the dance scene and food wasn’t really what they wanted.

It doesn’t matter.

Either way, what you did is not research.

What you did is go in with a biased hypothesis and then found information to specifically support the results you wanted. This is not research.

What would be research is to first isolate core values and needs from this potential vacation, then search for places that meet those core needs, and then find out which places fulfill all the core needs you have.

If you end up having quite a few options that meet all your core needs, shortlist the top three based on inclination and interest (yes, this is where that “gut feeling” finds its place, even though I hate that term. The reason for going with your personal interest at this stage is that most all of these choices will be okay anyway). Next, determine the pros and cons within the final shortlist. Weight your core needs by ranking them in order of importance, and then pick the most accurate choice based on the current information at hand.

Let’s break this down.

1. What are your core needs?

2. What are the potential choices that fulfill each need?

3. Which choice encompasses all your core needs?

STOP. If you have one option, pick it. If you have multiple options, go further.

5. What is the Top 3 Shortlist?

6. What are the pros and cons?

7. What are your weighted needs?

8. What is the final, most accurate result based on the current information at hand?

Here’s how this would translate.

Great! Now your choice is based on research. Go forth and conquer.

I’d love to hear from you — tell me how you’ve used research to inform your decisions…or when you wish you had. Cheers.

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