Adding ‘echo read outs’ to re-engage product teams with research projects — and get more done with insights
One review of insights is not enough. From a single share out, it’s just not realistic to expect research stakeholders to recall and act on a range of evidence-based issues and opportunities.
Researchers can bake recurring communication ‘echoes’ into their extended project timelines, increasing product peoples’ connection with insights over the actual time frames of planning work. ‘Echoes’ can spur meaningful re-engagement, activation, and accountability toward what really matters for the people your organization is striving to serve.
Great research projects in tech generate lists of insights that take a while to digest. Sure, there’s headlines, but many studies contain so much more that could inform product teams. Even great insight marketing around the time of a study’s completion (B2) can only build so much mindshare.
Some impact will land almost immediately around a study’s conclusion, shifting perspectives and opening up new directions. But many insights from a learning-rich study won’t land in that timeframe, and product people will move on to their own ideas of the next new thing. Insights that were not fully understood or added to roadmaps become waste. And later on, during those moments when product people would be truly open to hearing about research-based planning targets, those wasted insights sit silently in digital junk drawers.
Working with big research teams, I’ve seen so many cases of the right insight at the wrong time. It’s more common than anyone wants to admit. Important customer needs put on the back burner, eventually to be forgotten, pushed out of view by a stream of other back burnered ideas.
And for product people, time-spent-in-research is a prerequisite to acting on insights. Time spent understanding. Time spent imagining and building a shared point of view.
‘Echo read outs’ are one way to push back on recency bias and the idea that researchers should always be providing something new. ‘Echoes’ can be as simple as revisiting insights from a recent study and asking about what’s been done to address them. Or ‘echoes’ can be as complex as surfacing problems not solved from a batch of studies and asking teams for documented responses to be sent to leadership.
Product people can’t be invested if — despite everyone’s best intentions — insights have become vague recollections. In the constant churn of feature launches, we all get used to critical insights falling between the cracks.
But what if we decided to build our research projects with the expectation that key insights should be discussed repeatedly, long after the initial report out? After all, we shouldn’t wait for our ideal research repository to be in place before we generate recurring conversation around existing insights.
Some researchers will ask if such ‘echo’ follow-through is part of their job. Especially if one conceives of research as a production line of insights or a client service, rather than an integral part of planning (A2).
Given that many researchers in tech have become highly specialized data collectors and report deliverers, I strongly believe that research staff need to do more operational follow through on their projects. Granted, I’m a generalist, seeing the world from my own biases. And it’s true that Research Ops staff can shoulder some of this effort. But I believe that if researchers want to see more done from their community’s insights, they need to invest more of their time advocating for them.
When product teams re-engage with recent research, it can start to shift organizational culture from regarding research as an optional planning input to regarding research as an essential planning stakeholder. Especially when critical insights are coupled with some notion of ‘status.’ This culture shift can serve as groundwork toward longer term changes, where visibly incorporating research into planning deliverables is viewed as essential for good product development.
Improving your insight operations
Get more done with your research community’s insights by:
- Extending study timelines to include ‘echoes’ beyond initial results sharing and activation
Create space for ‘echo’ conversations in research plans. Adapt research project scheduling to allow for overlapping timelines, where results are being re-activated even as subsequent studies are in flight. Set expectations with stakeholders that research results will be discussed multiple times, and establish milestones that make sense for the type of study — e.g. one quick-turn check-in for a narrower design prototype study, a series of topical check-ins over two quarters for a major investigation of unmet customer needs.
- Running ‘echoes’ to maintain awareness of insights when decisions are actually being made
‘Echoes’ should be designed to drive insight re-engagement, activation, and accountability. Craft communication and meeting dates to revisit insights during key points in product teams’ own planning processes, keeping their eyes on what’s important for the people they are striving to serve. Expand the ‘impact radius’ (B1) of critical insights by connecting into any regular leadership meetings where data is reviewed to understand status, pain points, and opportunities.
- Running ‘echoes’ to highlight action and inaction against insights
Revisit action items that product teams said they were going to do. Or send all key insights from a study — or group of related studies — to ask product teams for responses, including links to related plans. Experiment with using leadership visibility of these responses to drive accountability. Rather than relentlessly pursuing particular insights at this stage, invest in a culture of research-driven planning by running retrospectives with product teams, re-examining research studies and identifying barriers to product impacts.
- Modulating ‘echoes’ to avoid being ignored as a ‘broken record’
You’re only going to get a limited amount of recurring interest about the same data from product teams. Find the right balance. Don’t take up too much time with your ‘echoes’ — unless a critical customer problem is not being solved. Along the lines of turning every report into a meta-analysis (C2), adding new evidence in an ‘echo’ session can motivate re-engagement. Lean on research ops, design, and program management staff to bring new voices to follow through efforts, whether in the form of insight reminder messages, or in meetings to drive accountability with individual product leaders.
- Establishing operations to push ‘echoes’ from research repository programs
If and when you reach the point where you have some sort of research repository tooling in place, particularly if you deconstruct reports down to the insight level, recurring ‘echoes’ can be easier to facilitate. Establish processes where researchers can lean on, and eventually entirely hand off to, operational staff who own research marketing (B2), design collaboration, and impact tracking.
- Your idea here…
On the path from insight to product impact
Adding ‘echo read outs’ to research projects is a key part of product teams maintaining awareness of possible planning targets from research. It’s also part of envisioning solution ideas and achieving prioritized plans.
If you’ve read this far, please don’t be a stranger. I’m curious to hear about your challenges and successes adding recurring ‘echo read outs’ to research projects in your organization. Thank you!
- B1. Growing research ‘impact radius’ by connecting learning to more internal product audiences — to get more done with insights
- B2. Improving internal marketing about upcoming and new research — to get more done with insights
- C2. Strengthening insights by evolving each research output into a meta analysis of compiled learning — to get more done with insights
- A2. Aiming for integrated research, not just a research repository tool
- View list of all ‘Integrating Research’ posts (and upcoming topics)
- “Represent your work: Your job after every round of research is not done and dusted, but it’s your responsibility to continue to propagate that throughout your team.” Aravind Ravi
- “We forget that knowledge and insights often have to be shared multiple times in multiple different ways for it to stick. Researchers and data scientists can be the drivers of this business change by socialising knowledge to empower teammates to obsess about customer success.” Jennifer Murphy
- “Or, when you do publish a summary, don’t just share it once. Identify multiple opportunities over the next few weeks to share and distill information to your core team and any stakeholders involved in the initial planning process.” Mary Brown
- “Lack of awareness is a lack of caring. But if you raise awareness, people will care. I think it’s really important to just believe in what you do. Believe that you can bring change and just go for it.” Julie Pechony Jones, Sofia Quintero