There were a couple of us...lone researchers and strategists, most of us "officially" hired as designers (or similar "more established" roles). We kept bumping into each other in hallways and meetings and coming back to the same gaps and opportunities - we immediately felt a kindred spirit.

I had started a new researcher role as the first design researcher supporting the product teams. As I began getting more embedded in the teams and the context, I noticed many teams and colleagues seeking a deeper understanding of the people they were solving problems for.

This is when our hallway conversations became more focused and we started formalizing a proposal to get executive support and budget to run a large scale foundational study that would allow us to create artifacts and bring back insights to help answer some of these questions the teams were asking.

We put together a proposal and a plan, made our case to our VP and after getting the green light, we were off to the races. For the next few months, we continued our day jobs while organizing, preparing and facilitating a 4 market study and finally, delivered behavioral personas, guiding principals along with foundational insights into how people live with their technology.

The impact from that project formed the foundation for what is now our Design Research team.

There were some key elements that came together to make all this happen:

  1. Everything in place / mise en place
  2. Basics + instincts / keep tasting
  3. Established demand / who wants what you are cooking up

1. Everything in place / mise en place

Photo by Gareth Hubbard on Unsplash

Just like every good cook understands the importance of mise en place, the gathering and measuring out of ingredients, prepping and having them easily accessible before cooking, researchers should consider the same for strategic research.

During the UXR Conference recently, Eran Ben-Ari talked about the importance of timing when planning and delivering research insights and artifacts. He said that research leaders should "actively seek out timing & cadence of key decisions (board meetings, annual planning cycles, product launches) and adjust accordingly." The goal is to "align timing of deliverables to those key milestones."

With that in mind, if we go back to the beginning, when we were just a couple of lone researchers and strategists, we were in the middle of Q4. We knew it would take us some time to get everything set up, get alignment and buy-in and consider time for recruiting and fieldwork prep. More importantly, we realized that this was neither a great time for asking for funding nor was it a time where our stakeholders would be able to ingest or apply the findings from our work. And on top of it, our Market Research and CX teams had just embarked on establishing a new segmentation schema within their org, which we were hoping to leverage as input into our participant screener and recruitment.

So we started by kicking off stakeholder interviews, reviewing existing research and information and started putting together a research frame. As we moved into Q1, when there was appetite and budget, we had everything in place - mise en place.

2. Basics + instincts / keep tasting

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

We cant all be professional chefs, yet we all need to eat. In our team, we talk about being a good researcher as the ability to elicit and understand the questions our organization is asking, identify the desired outcome and then leverage the right tools, ingredients and methods needed to achieve that desired outcome...kinda like cooking a meal (sense a theme here...? 😉)

But until you understand how certain ingredients and elements work together to create a certain outcome, you follow a recipe. Research is similar, so in instances where we don't embed a researcher into a problem space, we are supporting designers, product managers and anyone else who benefits from research and insights with tools such as research recipes and meal plans to guide them in explorations. The goal is to democratize research in a way that still elevates the quality and rigor as much as possible. My co-consiprator and team member Justin has detailed our thinking and examples of the research recipes here.