How the concept of academic research is throttling applied research

Image courtesy of Jumpstory:
Image courtesy of Jumpstory:

Research-for-hire — market research, UX research, and customer research — are in peril.

One of the major reasons is that they are positioned wrong. These functions are positioned to “help the business uncover customer needs,” or “deliver insights to the business.”

They promise businesses MORE data.

They promise businesses BETTER data.

They promise businesses FASTER access to data.

But they don’t promise the one thing that businesses really want. And it isn’t what you think.

The truth is, businesses don’t want data. They don’t even want insights. They want assurance that they are making the best possible decision. In short, they want to mitigate risk. …

How a framework for asking questions can help you solve your most burning customer questions.

My partner and I got called to a local business where a bank deposit had gone missing.

When we arrived, the manager of the store told us that he had given the deposit to one of the delivery drivers to take to the bank. We spoke with the driver, who was fully cooperative. He said he took the deposit to the bank, put it in the after-hours dropbox, and came back to the store.

We spoke with the bank and they said the deposit never got there.


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Great detectives ask great questions.

But questions alone aren’t enough. But the secret sauce for detectives is structure. I.e. asking directed and specific questions. Detectives just don’t question aimlessly; they question to understand. To do this, detectives use a framework to guide their questioning. …

You can adapt this pattern of questioning to virtually any situation to determine what’s wrong and why.

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash



Can you hear me?!

The man lay unconscious on the floor.

His wife stood nearby, nervously shifting from foot to foot.

What was going on? Why was he unconscious? As a paramedic, it was my job to find out. The best way to do this was by asking diagnostic questions.

Anybody can use diagnostic questioning to get to the root cause of a problem.

In asking diagnostic questions, listen closely to words used to describe the problem and its symptoms, when the problem occurs, and actions that connect to it or seem to cause it.

The devil is in the details.

In the case above, I followed an algorithm to guide my inquiry. In the emergency medical services professional, everything starts with the ABCs — airway, breathing, and circulation. …

But can we agree on what the facts are?

The phrase “Just the facts” was popularly attributed to Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet. But from what I can tell from some quick research; he never said it.

Yet people claim this as fact. Interesting, no?

Maybe people accept this “fact” because it doesn’t matter? Who cares if he said it or not, right?

Not all “facts” are created equal. Some “facts” are more important than others.

What is a fact?

Merriam Webster, a fact can be defined as,

A piece of information presented as having objective reality.

Or in easier terms,

A thing that is known or proved to be true.

What is your style?

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Imagine you have a bucket of the cleanest, most pure water in the world.

Now, imagine you take a drop of urine and place it in the water. Through the process of diffusion, the drop of urine permeates the entire bucket and contaminates the whole thing.

This is what happens when you have toxic communicators on your team; they can contaminate your whole environment.

Let’s take Patrick Lencioni’s framework, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and apply this thinking. The five dysfunctions are:

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Harmful communication erodes each level of the pyramid.

  • It erodes the foundation of trust;
  • It creates an environment where there is fear of conflict;
  • It creates an environment where team-members won’t commit to…

And neither should you (it’s bad for your health)

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Stop being nice.

Have you ever been on your way to a party with your significant other, parents, friends, etc., and they tell you to “be nice?”

What the fuck does “be nice” mean anyway?

What they are actually telling you to do is throttle your assertiveness, fit into the group (even if it’s not authentically you), and steer clear of conflict, i.e don’t make any waves.

At its core, being nice is about being liked by others by making everything smooth. No waves, no friction. It’s based on this (woefully inaccurate) theory: If I please others, give them everything they want, keep a low profile, and don’t ruffle feathers or create any discomfort, then others will like me, love me, and shower me with approval and anything else I want (promotions, sales, friendships, dates, sex, attention). …

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Most workplaces are ruled by fear.

Employees choose to take or avoid action based on either positive or negative consequences. If incentivized, employees can do great things. Conversely, the fear of repercussions or punishment can stop them from doing anything. Most workplaces think they are allowing their employees to speak their truth, but the reality is quite different.

Most workplaces reinforce behavior through fear.



A very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger.

People fear what will happen to them if they don’t “drink the Kool-Aid” or “toe the company line.” …

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As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said,

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

The problem is, many leaders today don’t display the ability to do this. Notice I didn’t say they are incapable of it.

I contend that people are capable; however, they are either unwilling or don’t know where to begin.

It begins by developing the ability to debate.

The ability to debate is grounded in a rich history.

  • In ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates used debate to understand the world by drawing out answers from his followers. Have you heard of Socratic questioning? …

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Dashcam from Deputy Kyle Dinkheller’s patrol car

And it can be costly.

January 12, 1998.

It was an hour before the end of his shift.

Deputy Kyle Dinkheller of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia was sitting on the side of Interstate 16 in his patrol car when a white Toyota pickup truck sped by at 98 miles per hour.

He activated his roof lights and raced down the road to catch up with the speeding vehicle. He was eventually able to pull the vehicle over on Whipple Crossing Road, a road adjacent to Interstate 16.

At first contact, things seemed routine.

Both Deputy Dinkheller, and the driver of the truck, Andrew Brennan exited their vehicles and exchanged greetings. …

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Imagine you are the detective called to the scene of a big gang fight between the Sharks and the Jets (don’t hate me for using West Side Story as a backdrop). Also, for purposes of this example, assume there are no third-party witnesses. As a detective, you have four options:

  1. Only interview the Jets to find out what happened;
  2. Only interview the Sharks to find out what happened;
  3. Interview both the Sharks and the Jets; or
  4. Interview nobody.

Which would you do?

Surely, you see the problem in only interviewing one side, i.e. only the Sharks or the Jets. The account you would receive would likely be completely one-sided and you would (most likely) get an unbalanced story, e.g. …


Dr. Ari Zelmanow

I make a living asking and answering questions | Currently @Panasonic | Previously @Twitter | Defender of truth, justice, and NY Pizza |

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