One of the most common things I see with Research Leaders is hyperfocusing on craft, while our stakeholders care about value and impact. Can these two things coexist at the same time?
My previous experience leading research at User Interviews and in my current work as a career coach tells me that they can.
User research is a craft
As researchers, we train for years to hone our craft skills. We focus on crafting the perfect research question, selecting the best method, sharpening our facilitation skills, and identifying patterns in data. This is our special sauce! It’s part of our identity as practitioners.
I see so many researchers lead with these same techniques when talking to stakeholders. Then I promptly observe my peers’ eyes glaze over, and the cycle continues.
User research is about impact
The reality is, our stakeholders don’t care about our craft (because capitalism). Our stakeholders care about the bottom line, ROI. They care about impact, decisions, and reducing risk.
Similar to many researchers I’ve met over the years, I did not become a researcher to talk about profit. I chose this path because of my desire to help others. I want to create products and experiences that uplift humanity and improve the quality of life for others. Learning about business basics like profit, revenue, capital gains was a means to an end—a way of how I could help others on a wider scale.
I didn’t become a researcher to talk about profit, but learning to talk about profit has made me a better researcher.
So my recommendation to every researcher is to take time to understand the business model you are operating in, identify what's important to your stakeholders, and how research can influence this work.
One of my favorite resources to do just this is Business Model Generation. In it, the authors Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigmeur use lean canvas activities to help you understand and design different business models. It quickly guides you through things like a business unique value proposition, unfair advantage, cost structure, key metrics, revenue stream and marketing channels.
This knowledge has allowed me to ground my work in what matters to the business and my stakeholders.
User research is about context
So the next time you want to share your work, try leading with how the project you ran about value prop and pricing helped to increase conversion rate—rather than getting into the specifics about the Van Westerndorp techniques you used in your pricing survey.
It’s all about context. As you drive impact, your stakeholders will naturally get curious about (and appreciate) your craft.