Making Research a Team Sport

We were thrilled to see that, on the whole, researcher frustration with buy-in has declined in recent years (at least, that’s according to our survey of 562 UXRs and PwDRs (people who do research). 

But that doesn’t mean all of your stakeholders and colleagues are suddenly, magically bought into user research, or that they’re always going to engage with insights the way you hope. And really, is there anything more disheartening than spending months on a research project only to have your insights gather dust? 

We know from qualitative interviews and discussions within the broader UXR community that getting teammates to engage with user research—both the process and its outcomes—is one of the most common problems user researchers face today.

At Rosenfeld’s Advancing Research 2022 conference, User Interviews’s VP of User Research, Roberta Dombrowski, and Senior Product Manager, Sam Duong Woloszynski, proposed a solution to this problem: Making research a team sport.

Watch the session recording to see their full presentation, view the session slides, or check out the highlights below. 

Watch the live session recording

View the session slides

5 key takeaways from the live session 

1. Collaboration is key.

When many people think about user research, they picture of a single researcher, sitting alone, working in a spreadsheet. But in reality, research is most effective when it’s a collaborative activity.

Not only does collaboration help you make sure your research has impact, it also leads to higher quality research insights—because each person has a unique perspective (and bias). Looking at a question or problem from multiple angles will make your research more robust and nuanced.

2. Begin with the end in mind.

As a user researcher, you rarely (if ever) do research for the sake of doing research—you do it to inform real decisions. 

So how can you set yourself up to inspire action with your research?

Roberta and Sam suggest that you begin with the end in mind, investing time during research planning to consider:

  • Why: There’s often a business or product goal that you’re working toward. Can you tie this research plan to the bigger picture?
  • What: What concrete, immediate decision will be unblocked by doing this research? 
  • Who: Who will be involved in making that decision? Think about your target audience for the research insights you’ll eventually present—what kinds of evidence will they find compelling? This info can help you decide which methods to use. 

3. Involve people from the beginning.

As mentioned before, collaboration between UXR and stakeholders is key for getting buy-in and making sure your research insights impact decision-making. 

Whenever you kick off a project, try to involve key partners from different parts of the business, including:

  • Product
  • Engineering
  • Data & analytics
  • Marketing
  • Sales & customer success
  • Operations

Usually, this kick-off takes the form of stakeholder interviews. Depending on the type and scope of the project, you might involve more or fewer of these partners—but each stakeholder group will have a unique perspective on how to serve customers. By involving others early, you can create a shared context that will enable more creative problem-solving and streamline decision-making in the long run.

4. Continue your partnership as you make progress.

You don’t want to involve stakeholders from the beginning only to have their attention drop off at key moments during the project. 

To keep up the momentum:

  1. Create agreements for how you plan to work together. Outline your expectations for different roles (moderator, notetaker, observer), and allow stakeholders to sign up for roles and time slots that work for them. Also, share templates and examples of the types of artifacts you’ll create together, e.g. customer journey maps or prototypes. 
  2. Make it easy for stakeholders to say yes. Frame your requests clearly and actionably with the full context they need to understand. Explain how it’s relevant to their role and let them know you value their expertise and perspective.
  3. Share incremental updates as you progress. Sharing highlights as you go encourages the research team to start the synthesis process sooner, and it’s a light-touch way to keep stakeholders engaged. 
  4. Pull out key patterns and themes. Have a quick (5–10 minute) debrief with your team immediately after sessions to share key insights. As a group, identify and organize key themes via affinity mapping and delegate any follow-up work that might be required. 

5. Use storytelling to compel your audience to action.

Finally, once you’ve done all the hard work of conducting, analyzing, and synthesizing your research into key insights, it’s time to share them in a way that drives your team toward action. 

Stories are powerful tools for capturing your audience’s attention. As humans, we’re wired to remember and respond to stories, much more than individual pieces of evidence. 

Weave your findings into a narrative by structuring your research insights this way:

  • In the beginning, share context and introduce tension with the obstacle you face (i.e. the decision that needs to be made). 
  • In the middle, your rising action is the research journey you took. 
  • The climax culminates in the insights you learned from the project. 
  • In the end, you can invite your team to take part in the story by recommending next actions to resolve the decision you introduced at the beginning. 

For example, you might structure your research report like this:

  • Why: What goal or outcome does this insight support?
  • What: What decision will you make?
  • Approach: What research questions and methods did you use?
  • Key insights: What did you learn? What evidence did you gather?
  • Next actions: What action do you want to drive from this work? Make a recommendation.

Do better research as a team

As Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” By bringing together stakeholders with diverse perspectives, you can gain better insights and ultimately make a bigger impact with your research. 

How User Interviews can help 

User Interviews streamlines recruitment and participant management, so you have more time to build, engage, and inform your team. Sign up today and get your first 3 participants for free. 

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