13 Processes For Organizing Your Research
Leadership begins with research. Why? Because direction must come from both within and without. From without, from researching the external world — from understanding individuals, organizations, markets, ideas, products and services — that is how we construct our reality, and find our place in it.
Once the leader situates himself in the cosmos, then he can look within for a response, for a direction, to bring forth something new. But a leader who leads without an architecture of understanding, that is a walk in the darkness without a map.
How can technology help? The leader must do the research itself. The leader’s mind must process the information, in order to understand it. And the leader must provide direction to the research. But materials can be gathered, notes can be organized, thoughts can be shared, discussions can be facilitated, news can be monitored, experts can be sourced — a lot can be done to set the leader up for research intelligence.
Fetch basic data. “Hey, Keats, what’s the population of North Korea?” “Twenty five million people, sir.” “Shit, that’s a lot of people suffering from tyranny.” — You know, conversations like this. You can have them with your bot all the time.
We’ve designed your S.I. to be a one stop shop. A single touch point for everything. A single touch point for unlimited specialization.
So you can certainly ask it things you would normally ask Google, Wikipedia or any other public source. Just like any good pet, we play fetch! That’s right, cats are not pets. They are masters. Neither are lizards. Lizards don’t play fetch.
“Fill out this spreadsheet.” Requests like that. You’ve got some data set, some file you need to fill. It’s going to take you an hour to do it manually. Or ten hours.
Just give it to us. It’s not hard for us to cross-reference two data-sources, look up certain points of information, and fill in a sheet.
Research begins with interests. You won’t ask questions unless you’re first interested. So, what are some of your research interests? For example, I’m interested in blockchain.
Your S.I. can ask you about your interests, and give you some prompts. Once you give it a research interest, it can then help you formulate some research questions that realte to that interests.
Research operates by questioning. Asking questions means being curious; means admitting not knowing. So what questions do you have about any given interest?
What don’t you know about say, blockchain? I don’t understand how Initial Coin Offerings are securitized; what, if anything, these coins represent, other than the coins themselves. Are there any companies securitizing their coins with shares of equity? There, we have a research question.
Your S.I. can play socratic partner with you, and ask you questions that relate to your interests. This helps you explore what you know and what you don’t know. Once you arrive at a research question, then your S.I. can begin to gather research materials.
Gathering research materials is not research itself. In a first pass, we can comb search results, news articles, academic papers, encyclopedia entries, books and other media with keywords. With enough context on your interest and question, we can apply some human intuition to guessing which materials will be most relevant. And we can present you with an initial list.
Your S.I. will come back to you with a list of links to various materials, with brief descriptions. Out of say 10 links, you may be only interested in one or two. But that gives us a clue that we can use to find more links like those.
Reading takes time, so once we’ve found enough materials to warrant this, your S.I. will set aside a block of focus time on your Calendar.
After doing the reading, your S.I. will ask you for your notes. If you’d like, your S.I. can prompt you with some questions about what you learned.
Did you discover the answer to your question?
Did it lead you towards new questions, new interests?
Or did it deepen your interest in this topic?
What was the most relevant?
What was most confusing?
What was most encouraging?
Did you get any leads on new materials for further research?
These notes are then filed away as research on this topic.
At this point, your S.I. will ask you if you would like to investigate a new interest, or a new question, or find new material for an existing question, or merely block more time to pursue existing leads.
As you develop a larger and larger set of research interests, you’ll naturally have to prioritize and re-prioritize them, based on what’s most relevant or interesting to you right now. Your S.I. ask you prioritize the top 3 priorities (or more, if you’d like), and then check with you on a regular basis to make sure these are still your top 3 priorities.
If you wanted to, you could become a full-time researcher, using your S.I. to power multiple arcs of investivation, and help you organize, network and tag your notes — so you can make sense of the picture that is emerging.
As your research matures, your notes will become relevant to a wide variety of things that you are doing. Your research interest in genetics, for example, may be something you have in common with 15 of your contacts. Your S.I. will suggest pairing these files, and you yourself can request it. Over time, this helps you densely network your digital brain.
If you’re a curious person, and your research interests are varied, the topics you’re investigating may be apples and oranges. Or apples and lizards. Or apples and Georgian Architecture. Or apples and… you get the picture.
Categorization is one of our core processes, common across many of our Capabilities, because it is necessary to do any advanced manipulation of data.
So if you’ve been doing research into say genetics, blockchain, bitcoin, ethereum, initial coin offerings, digital labor markets, Numerai and drone services businesses — categorizing these topics helps to understand the pattern of the hierarchy that you’re working with.
For example, a simple taxonomy that would resolve this set might be: technology, market or company. Bitcoin, ethereum and initial coin offerings are technologies. Digital labor markets and drone services businesses are markets. And Numerai is a company.
Every taxonomy breaks, and when yours does, your S.I. will solve it for you, unless you’d like to be involved in taxonomy design. As you may have noticed, this taxonomy is breaking already — because bitcoin, ethereum and initial coin offerings are not only technologies, they are market phenomena. Which should it be?
By default, we don’t involve the client in building taxonomies, because we’re good at it, and it reduces coordination costs. But, if our taxonomy isn’t working for you, you can always edit it with custom preferences. If you’d like to introduce an entirely new taxonomy of your own, we can do that too, but you need to provide a complete set of rules for us follow when categorizing.
It’s time to use all of the research you’ve done to draw a map of the economy. Once you’ve categorized a decent set of research interests, we can help you start analyzing how they relate to each other.
For example, if you’ve be doing research into three interests that we’ve categorized as markets — blockchain, machine learning and drones — your S.I. will ask you questions like:
Do these markets relate to each other? If so, how?
If any of them form a set, what markets are missing from the set?
What markets have you not researched, but which relate to your business?
If these mapping were placed on a map of the economy, what would be missing?
If your business were placed on that map, where would you stand in relation?
Our process designers build a library of questions like these to use as prompts for clients. Your S.I. will save your response to each question in your notes, and tag it as an analysis.
These were questions about markets. But your S.I. can ask you a different set of questions about companies, technologies and any other category you introduce into your research.
When you perform analyses like this, you’re going beyond just doing research. You’re thinking about the research that you’re doing. You’re mapping.
What’s the sum of all of this research, all of this analysis? Once you have a sense for the territory, you develop a set of theses. Some of these theses will be positive — describing what is happening. Some will be normative — describing what you think should happen, or what is missing.
As you write more theses, the relationships between different aspects of your own thinking will be clarify. A hierarchy will emerge, and it will be clear how your thinking on one subject provided the foundation for your thinking on another.
As you update these theses over time, your S.I. will encourage them to factor in new information, so you can test your thinking. These theses can pair with your Decisions, say, for example, with a decision to update your business model.
If you want to compare your research with another member of your team, or just collaborate with someone outside the company — you need a clean, presentable format to share your notes. Thankfully, we format all of your files to protocol, and can handle file permissions and other sharing logistics.
If other people share their research with you, you’re going to need some help figuring out which parts of their research relate to which parts of yours. We can help there too, by applying the same categorization process we use to resolve your data, on theirs. So you can get closer to apples to apples.
Research is lonely and hard. It is not something that anyone can do for you. So most people just don’t do it, or don’t do it seriously. They rely on random links and internet distractions. Their thinking becomes lazy and reactive. Easier and more social activities take over.
But the great leaders value research, and have always been willing to do the work. Without an S.I. to structure and run the process, however, and organize all the data that results from it — it would become a full time job. So most of the research thinking that gets done is trapped in the recesses of the mind; it never makes it way into a formal digital brain.
There is untold power in putting your brain on paper. Imagine after a decade of research, the wealth of information and insight you would have evolved to inform your decisions, or to share with your company, your confidants.
When a whole team engages in this exercise, the intersubjective field becomes a strong mesh of insights. Never before has such alignment been possible.