Mapping existing research into design briefs and workflows — to get more done with insights

Targeted insights from a research repository are tied into new design projects. Text reads: ‘Injecting insights into design kickoffs to ad focus and context pulled from research repositories”

Off to the races. Designers taking on new projects are hungry for insights — but existing research in repositories can feel a world away from new lines of exploration.

To activate repositories, research operations can connect into the spaces where design teams document and track their own work items. By mapping existing insights into new design projects, we can help shape designers’ thinking toward better outcomes, reframing projects toward a greater range of evidence-based customer needs.

Speech bubbles: Q: “I’m getting requests to design things that don’t have much connection to the insights our research teams have gathered… or at least I’m not seeing the connection?” A: “We can pull insights from our repository to help you get started on your projects based on what we’ve learned so far.” Q: “Can we add it to the brief that we’ll be working from?” A: “Absolutely. We should try doing that with every design brief, or at least the crucial ones.”

Using research repositories to drive regular, early connection with design can enable designers to do their best work — while making their lives easier. In addition to providing useful insights, early connection can introduce designers to researcher experts who have useful points of view on essential requirements and emerging questions.

Improving your insight operations

  • Getting started by tagging researchers to new design projects
    As a first step, even before robust repository programs are in place, there’s real value in consistently matchmaking designers with researchers who know a thing or two about what they are about to tackle. Bring researchers closer to the conversations that they want to be in — starting as a low stakes q and a, with the optional opportunity to expand their involvement.
  • Exploring formats for incorporating existing research content into design spaces
    Collect examples of inputs to designers within your organization, identifying documentation where early contributions from research could be added. These may be tickets from a designops workflow, notes from a design staffing meeting, a new project collaboration board, or even formal design briefs. Define templated approaches for injecting insights, separating out background info, essential requirements, and related context. Clarify which insights are core problems-to-solve versus insights included as analogous learning. Highlight key uncertainties where exploring multiple directions would provide value. And make space to call out related UX debt — issues that have slipped through the cracks that could potentially be addressed in a given project.
  • Experimenting with pilot design projects to refine approach
    Identify sample design projects to try injecting existing research. Select projects with high risk and visibility, staffed with designers who are known for applying research effectively, in areas where existing insights could clearly add value. Gain agreement from related researchers and designers in advance, building new collaborations around incorporating prior learning. Check in on the process along the way and gather feedback to iterate the approach.
  • Bringing other disciplines closer to the evidence-based design rationale
    Use the addition of existing research to design documentation as another opportunity to reshare insights via ‘echo’ readouts (C3). Convene meetings to tell the story of the prior learning, discuss its implications, and iterate the injected research content based on feedback. Include product, engineering, and other disciplines to help reframe new initiatives toward known customer needs, driving conversations about valuable changes to scope. Provide a stage where researchers who authored key insights can share their points of view with product teams.
  • Transitioning from pilot experimentation toward new operations
    Gather wins and build the leadership buy-in needed to advance from sample projects to a recurring, formalized process. Connect with any product and design operations teams in order to agree upon triggers, steps, and staffing approaches. If these teams are not in place, discuss establishing ‘just enough’ formality in design workflow to enable research to provide consistent input. Seek staffing approaches that distribute responsibilities, with research serving as subject matter experts for existing insights, rather than sole owners for inserting existing research.
  • Your idea here…

On the path from insight to product impact

A diagram of seven stages on the path from insight to product impact: Category called “Integrating research content” 1) Sufficient evidence (grayed out), 2) Usefully articulated insight (grayed out), 3) Awareness of possible planning target (partially highlighted), Category called “Integrating into product planning” 4) Envisioned solution ideas (highlighted), 5) Prioritized plan (partially highlighted), 6) Quality execution (grayed out), 7) Understood results (grayed out).

Let’s connect

Related posts

Selected references

  • “I see them struggle, because to make their research consumable, is to turn it from a banquet into take away fast food. Every time we do that a researcher dies a little inside. But not doing that is hobbling the discipline, it’s making it something that is only consumable with the chef sitting next to you, telling you what the food means at each step of the banquet…” Brigette Metzler
  • “As passionate research and insight professionals we tend to take ownership of what the insight means and how to apply it as a means of driving return on investment. However, if we are bold and brave enough to let go of this ownership then amazing things can happen. At a recent conference I attended, researchers from Samsung and SkyLabs both described their roles as tour guides of insight. They discussed how they led teams through insights and inspired next steps without dictating what those might be. This strategy is effective with stakeholders because it avoids psychological reactance (that very human desire to have autonomy and agency in what we do rather than to have to follow instructions).” Maria Twigge



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Jake Burghardt

Jake Burghardt

Focused on integrating streams of customer-centered research and data analyses into product operations, plans, and designs.