Enlisting design dreamers to explore solutions for unaddressed needs in research repositories — and get more done with insights

Integrating research > Crafting arteries into planning > G. Driving early adoption of repositories in product design processes > Article G2

Insights needing designs to get traction. Without visualization to inspire product planning actions, even the most compelling evidence-based problem can languish in a research repository.

Research operations can secure design resourcing to solidify ‘in the air’ solutions and ideate concepts for non-obvious problems, clearing the fog around possible next steps. By using existing research to align design staffing with needed efforts, we can build momentum toward using repositories to set larger product agendas.

Great researchers work to inspire design dreamers during the timeframe of each study. But even after a study successfully inspires compelling new design directions, it’s common for some crucial insights to miss out on needed design attention.

As important insights build up in repositories, research operations can continue to advance these collected learnings toward products. While injecting insights into design projects that are already ‘in-flight’ can expand evidence-based design efforts (G1), we can also initiate new, dedicated pathways. By exploring new operations, we can actively grow the ratio of crucial insights in our repositories that have corresponding solution ideas from design teams. We can dig into essential problems that are not getting enough attention and move them further down the path toward product impact.

If you’ve worked in tech for a while, you’ve heard about ‘next’ things that never came. Next version, next sprint, next phase, or what have you. There’s so much competition for the front edge of product roadmaps that actually getting into the ‘next’ thing typically requires strong advocacy. One proven path for driving existing insights toward ‘next’ has turned out to be convening design efforts, in collaboration with research authors — enabling product owners to more fully visualize potential solutions for an insight.

It’s true that not every unaddressed insight is hard to visualize. Some will have solution ideas that have already been discussed repeatedly, but yet somehow haven’t landed in product plans. Everyone imagines a similar next step, but these ‘in the air’ ideas somehow haven’t made the cut. At the other extreme, many other evidence-based problems do not have obvious solutions and could benefit from exploring a range of design ideas. In either case, research operations can unblock progress by working to secure design staffing in order to generate possible solutions as concrete, read-to-estimate proposals.

When working to advance a set of existing insights from your repositories, you can draw on the same ideation toolbox that’s used to activate learning at the end of big generative studies. And there’s no substitute for securing the efforts of energetic designers who can ‘work ahead’ of current roadmaps, imagining new user experiences to address crucial insights.

Developing operations to regularly enlist product design dreamers is about more than moving any particular insight closer to prioritization. These new operations can also further distribute ownership of research insights into design teams, growing the role of existing learning as an instigator of what’s next. Research authors wanting to stay connected to follow-through from their insights will have remained in the loop, heading off their concerns about product people drawing incorrect conclusions from prior learning. And as past insights advance toward product reality through design, contributing researchers can claim a new form of impact — a flavor of success that lies outside the confines of study timelines.

Improving your insight operations

Get more done with your research community’s insights by:

  • Selecting insights that could benefit from design effort
    Research repositories may contain many types of insights, and not everything can be pushed as requests toward design teams. Research leadership can strike a balance between pushing unaddressed insights that provide high-value optimizations of existing product areas with insights that could drive experimentation around new offerings to address customer needs. Choosing insights that could be early winners is important, but should not be paralyzing. Enlisting regular ‘work ahead’ design effort is a long game, and if all goes well, you will have multiple chances.
  • Convening initial research and design discussions about selected insights
    Meet with researchers whose existing insights you would like to push toward design. Evaluate unused research recommendations, understand past challenges, build current interest, and refine your insight selection. Next, conduct some internal discovery to understand the right design dreamers to involve in a ‘work ahead’ initiative. Meet with dreamers to discuss your intention to get out ahead of current roadmaps, with researcher authors resharing an ‘echo’ readout of selected insights (C3). Discuss your plan and get a feel for who’s inspired to commit some effort.
  • Securing design resources to ‘work ahead’ on selected insights
    In collaboration with design dreamers who have been inspired by the existing insights you’ve shared, meet with design leadership and operations to discuss resources needed for an initial ‘work ahead’ experiment. Paint a big picture but start with a small request. Bring background on your repository programs, examples of past collaborative wins with design, and your long-term vision for the impacts of this new thread of collaboration.
  • Facilitating collaboration to generate and share potential design solutions
    Connect with design teams to understand common ideation processes currently in use. Determine which of your selected insights would benefit from heads-down designer time and which could benefit from workshopping. Develop workshop materials and export research repository content into a physical/digital wall of shared immersion content. Invite related researchers and product people into working sessions and critiques, ensuring that insights are always discussed as rationale ahead of new proposals.
  • Transitioning toward an ongoing track of ‘work ahead’ design effort
    Share wins with design leaders and grow the buy-in needed to advance from early experiments to a recurring process. Collaboratively develop a routine for this new thread of effort, with design operations owning a regular cycle of checkins and workshops, and research providing targeted insights and other inputs.
  • Your idea here…

On the path from insight to product impact

Engaging product design dreamers to explore novel solutions for insights is part of having envisioned solution ideas to address insights. It’s also related to maintaining awareness of insights as possible planning targets and getting to prioritized plans.

Let’s connect

If you’ve read this far, please don’t be a stranger. I’m curious to hear about your challenges and successes securing design resources to work ahead against existing research insights. Thank you!

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Articles on research repositories and better integrating streams of research into product planning. Tech organizations are acting like labs without collective notebooks, unlocking only limited value from their research investments. Let’s get more done with research insights.

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Jake Burghardt

Focused on integrating streams of customer-centered research and data analyses into product operations, plans, and designs. www.linkedin.com/in/jakeburghardt