10 questions to ask yourself and your team before you begin a research project

Anne Orban, a longtime colleague here at Innovation Focus has always said, “There are only a few questions that matter: What is working? What isn’t working? How would you fix that? Is there anything we should talk about that we missed?

Another great place to begin when designing a research project is to use the tried and true 5W’s and an H – Who, what, when, where,why and how:

  1. Why?
    • Why are you doing this work?
    • Who is funding your effort and why?
    • What other motivations might there be?
  2. Who to study and who to take along?
    • Who do you want to visit? 
    • Do you have an understanding of who your customers and non-customers are and do you wish to visit a smattering of each?
    • Should you be approaching different parts of the value chain?
    • Who is on your team?
    • Who is the customer for your research?
  3. What do you wish to observe and discuss? 
    • What do you really need to know?
    • What do you think you already know?
    • What do you wish you knew?
    • What would you like to see, feel, touch, taste, smell, hear?
    • What else could you learn about while you are there?
  4. When?
    • What time of year, week, day part?
  5. Where?
    • Global,local, regional, down the hall?
    • Home, car, office, factory flow?
    • The space, in the cupboards, fridge, trash … behind the building?
  6. How will you learn (examples)?
    • Small casual study, friends and family recruit
    • Multi-segment visits with careful screening
    • Send out video cameras to students around the world and see what you get

But you may also need a bit more depth

  1. What do you think your organization already thinks it knows? – Biases and cultural assumptions going in

2. How can I set this up for success? questions like… who should be on the team and as important who should not

3. When do you have to have conclusions in front of people to have maximum impact? Look at the calendar and find out what else is happening. Coming in after the decision has been made only frustrates everybody

4. What reports in the past have had an impact and how can your study emulate them?

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