Insights On Demand
Here’s how I improved my ability to deliver meaningful research insights with little or no advance warning.
“Babette, do you have any research on XYZ you can share in our meeting tomorrow?”
Requests like this used to throw me off a bit. But now when colleagues ask me to provide insights in a short time window, I usually can — without working all night! In fact, I’ve come to see these requests as great opportunities to make sure teams rely on research throughout all stages of product development.
Here are 5 steps that have improved my ability to provide meaningful on-demand insights for stakeholder meetings, decisions, and presentations.
1. Keep an eye on the future
As a researcher, you’re the lifeline between your teams and the people who use your products. By continuously thinking about what you think should be long-term “big bets” for the company, you can bring an informed, data-driven, customer-centric vision to the table that can be paired with other unique insights to present a complete picture.
How do you go about this? Start simple by adding a few minutes to qualitative research or a question to surveys, or by asking partners like sales, customer service, and other researchers for insights. Try to get to the core of problems and opportunities you hear about that may be outside of the current scope. Start to document them. They’ll be useful on your mission to help define the future of the company — and make it easier to deliver meaningful insights on demand.
2. Collect and share bite-size insights.
It might be hard to get a full hour of time from the key people you want to influence. By gathering the most memorable clips and quotes from interviews and surveys, you can build an arsenal of powerful insights that can be shared at a moment’s notice. For example, I’ve used clips of international research — always with subtitles — to set the stage in important meetings.
When difficult decisions have to be made, these insights and clips can help align everyone on the real problems to solve for. I’ve also noticed that teams become more engaged with research from the start when they see real customers describing the problems they’ve had. Team members have even started actively asking for these clips and insights — and added time for them on recurring meeting agendas.
3. Repeat and customize insights — and persist.
Sharing the same insights over and over can feel unnatural. But I’ve come to realize that the repetition can give me time to fully process the information. It also lets me try different ways of conveying insights, helping me learn the most effective sharing methods for each audience.
In some cases, it’s just not the right time for the audience to hear your message. In others, you haven’t found quite the right way to express it. Instead of getting disappointed every time an insight didn’t seem to “stick,” I started working on mixing up the delivery.
I now like to present insights not only in a wide range of forms (from a quick quote to a slide deck) but also in a wide range of contexts (from hallway conversations to meetings). I’ve found that this variety gives the insights their best chance of landing. And it keeps me from sounding like a broken record (until a coworker starts to giggle when I bring it up — that’s when I know the point has been made).
4. Collaborate for deeper insights.
Continuously collaborating with others is a great way to improve your readiness to provide meaningful insights on demand. For example, you might include in your studies some questions from other researchers who are working with a similar population, and ask them to do the same.
Partnering with data science or similar functions can help you show the scale of the opportunity. This can deepen your insights by combining the why and the what behind a behavioral trend. If you can match visualization of the data with a customer clip explaining it, that’s a powerful way to illustrate an insight in less than a couple minutes — and one that you can re-use in different ways over time.
5. Stay true to your values.
As you make changes to your routine, continue to ask yourself: Am I being true to who I am as a researcher?
For me, that means always presenting insights in the true context they were generated in. I’m fascinated by — and driven by — the decisions people make that influence how they develop their businesses, livelihoods, and daily lives. Authenticity also means always trying to be honest, fair, and direct in the way I work with my teams.
By staying true to yourself, you’ll be able to tell a more compelling and honest story. It’ll also ensure that you don’t become reactive to on-demand requests — for example, focusing on questions that are important now over questions that are important in the longer term. When you stay focused on the big-picture goals you’ve set for yourself, you’ll become a more effective voice for the people who count on your work.