This is the latest Research Practicing newsletter by Gregg Bernstein. Thank you for subscribing.
I love a good prompt. If there’s anything you’d like to see me cover in a future dispatch, get in touch!
Now here's what's hot off the presses this week at gregg.io:
For Learners, I answered the question, "How can I get my research on the radar of the CEO and other top level people at my company?"
Me talking about evangelizing research to senior leadership (screenshot only—click here to watch!)
User research helps everyone make informed decisions, including your CEO and executive leadership team. And the instinct to evangelize research to a senior—and influential—audience is a good one.
But interrogate that instinct and ask yourself: are you being ambitious for the benefit of your organization, or are you being ambitious for yourself? There’s a thoughtful and strategic path toward getting research—and yourself—on your executive leadership team’s radar, and there’s a treacherous path that will lead to confusion, bad vibes, and hurt feelings.
Let’s start with the treacherous path. You might be tempted to approach your CEO directly—either in person or over email or Slack—and share some insights that you think are fascinating and worth pursuing.
Your CEO will either ignore you, send a message to your manager and ask WTF is going on, or call a meeting and ask a bunch of VPs why they’re not right on top of the shiny object you just put in front of your CEO.
Ignoring you is actually the best outcome here, because if your manager gets a message from the CEO—or the CEO’s chief of staff—everyone will wonder why you went rogue didn’t follow any chain of command. You’ll make your manager look not great.
And if your CEO starts asking everyone in their vicinity about your pet insight, your manager will be the least of your concerns. You’ll have a bunch of executives whose roadmaps and sprint plans are now being jeopardized because you just had to get on the CEO’s radar.
So let’s instead take the happy path and assume your ambition is for your team—that your intention is to evangelize the great work you and your peers are doing to a more senior audience.
One way to do this is to share recent impactful findings at a regularly scheduled meeting. A company all-hands might fit the bill, or an executive leadership meeting. If a presentation isn’t what you had in mind, maybe there’s a regular research update your executive team would appreciate. I’d suggest working with your manager and your CEO’s chief of staff on what this research update might look like, how detailed it should be, and in what format executives would prefer to receive it.
Something my teams have done in the past is send a monthly newsletter for senior leadership with updates on what we learned about our competitors and what impact that might have on our org.
You have the right idea if you’re asking how to get your research into the hands of senior decision makers. But take the time to do so collaboratively and thoughtfully in a way that your CEO, executive team, and manager will value.
Read Two ambitious paths on gregg.io.
For Learners, I answered the question, “Can research ever come to an end?”
Me talking about if research can ever come to an end (screenshot only—click here to watch!)
Research never ends. But research projects have to end.
Another way to say this is that you could keep researching a topic until the end of time—there are always new directions you can take a study. Every new user and everything they do is yet another data point for you to potentially examine. You can add every possible competitor to your competitive analysis, and analyze every new transaction for emerging trends.
But this is neither a good use of your time nor talent. Your org hired you to help make design and product decisions that support the business goals of the organization. A research project that doesn’t end has an opportunity cost of other research projects that you aren’t doing.
(Another reason to not research forever: you will likely reach theoretical saturation if you keep researching the same topic long enough. Theoretical saturation is the point at which further research will yield no new insights. In other words, you’ve covered it and it’s time to move on.)
So research doesn’t have to end, but it should for the sake of the business and to open opportunities to support other product and design decisions. When you scope a project, include a clear stopping point. Stopping points might be based on the date your partners need to make a decision (“We need to present findings at the end of the next sprint”), or upon successfully answering the key research questions you and your cross-functional partners agreed upon at a kickoff (“We’re scoping this project to these three research questions. Anything else is nice to know but not critical”).
So be curious. Be rigorous. But keep in mind that your research is in support of making decisions. Scope your projects to optimize for more decisions, not infinite research.
Read Can research ever come to an end on gregg.io.
The thing about processes is that they're usually borne of—and specific to—a unique situation. What works in one org rarely works in another (and often never really worked at scale in the originating org). Even within an organization, there are too many variables at play to define a process. As Eduardo Hernandez writes in "Death to the double diamond:"
Designers work on real-life complex problems and not in controlled environments. We, designers, deal with a diverse set of stakeholders, influencing factors and interrelated factors. That way there’s no way to map out a process that’s going to solve complex problems; it’s too difficult to have that level of visibility into the future. The “process” often only makes sense looking backwards.
SCAD Academic Leadership Retreat: I earned my MFA in design from SCAD way back in 2010. To say my degree changed my life is an understatement; thanks to some great classes and professors, I discovered the field of user research and started to find my voice as a writer.
Thus I was honored to be invited to spend a few days in Savannah, Georgia last month at the 2023 SCAD academic leadership retreat. I joined two other industry leaders to strategize with department chairs and deans on how best to prepare students for creative careers. It was rewarding to share the strengths and weaknesses of my MFA experience, as well as what I see lacking in the portfolios of recent graduates.