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agile research methods

Erika Hammer, Vice President

I’ve never considered myself much of an artist. In school, there was only one “art fair” where I received a ribbon other than “participant.” However, over the last year, I’ve taken up the hobby of photography, and it’s helped me realize just how much a “non-artistic” career like market research is related to the artistic process.

In the past year, my photography skills have definitely evolved and grown – but it goes beyond that. The entire practice of photography means you’re constantly evolving and making adjustments to create the best picture. Agile research is similar – your path and the solutions you take to get to your end goal are constantly evolving through collaboration to provide the best answers. 

Some would argue that agile research is another word for “quick” research – but they aren’t necessarily one in the same. Quick research can, however, play a part in agile research. More importantly, however, it’s necessary to make quick adjustments to be agile in research; being nimble and flexible are key components to this

In standard practice, our clients come to us with goals/objectives, and we outline a plan to meet those goals/objectives by presenting them with a research proposal. In fact, we pride ourselves on creating detailed, well-thought-out research plans that cover all the bases. However, even the best-laid plan nearly always evolves – even if it’s not labeled “agile” research…

  • Many times, we learn something new from another study, or in another phase that’s part of our research plan. So, we adjust and evolve our plan. When we’re partnering with a client on several initiatives or have a long-standing relationship, this is especially common.
    • Similarly, in photography, I typically realize a position or camera setting I could have altered to make a better picture (so I take that into account the next time).
  • Oftentimes, needs change for our clients between the proposal phase and conducting the research; accordingly, we adjust and evolve our plan
    • This would be relatable for professional photographers whose clients’ needs may change, requiring them to adjust the way they shoot, or the equipment they use. 
  • Other times, there are changes in the market while we’re in the midst of a study (especially top-of-mind lately is everything that changed so rapidly with COVID-19). So, here again, we adjust and evolve our plan.
    • This happens all the time in photography. Weather or lighting significantly impacts the way I take pictures. Or, in the case of COVID-19, it may change where and what I take pictures of.
  • In addition, many times we learn something unexpected in our analysis or identify an unexpected angle (or sub-group to analyze). So, we adjust and evolve our story.
    • Similarly, when taking photos, I may have one thing in mind but realize after I take that first shot that there’s something more interesting – or I might find a more interesting angle for something I’ve taken pictures of many times before.

So, what’s the key takeaway? Market research can be considered an artform! Well, maybe not – but as with any artist, you’ll end up with the best “product” if you’re agile and can evolve your approach. Sticking to a very stringent research plan may provide you with some answers, but with an agile approach, you can really hone in on the answers to your objectives and get the full story.
 

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