"We need to get comfortable with leaving unasked questions." This statement, made by guest speaker Carisha Larios in our webinar, Ask the Experts: Unpacking Agile, struck a chord.
There’s a lot packed into the statement, especially when we are thinking about Agile Research and what it means for insights as a whole. We know that Agile today is most often used as a shorthand to indicate speed: the ability to move from a business question to delivering insights and recommendations in a short time. But to make that shift to Agile Research, our approach needs to change, and being comfortable with unasked questions is one of those shifts.
First and foremost, it requires focus. That means obtaining clarity on the business question, pinpointing the most appropriate research approach, and getting very specific on the questions to address the business need.
As researchers, and indeed business professionals, this makes us nervous. What if we don’t get the answers we need? What if we just added this or that question to the survey or discussion guide, and it is those questions that provide the insight sought.
The thing is: good research always leads to more questions. It is no coincidence that most academic papers end with the conclusion ‘more research is required’ but those papers also most often answer the questions they set out to address.
So yes, we need to get comfortable with leaving unasked questions. Additionally, we also need to remember (or perhaps be convinced!) about how much information that we can obtain even from limited questions.
The value garnered from a few questions was recently brought home to me by a short three-wave pulse survey that we ran around grocery stores’ response to COVID-19. Through only seven questions (five closed and two open-ends), a picture emerged of how people’s initial discontent shifted to more positive feelings over four weeks as supply chain issues evened out and health safety adequately addressed. (If you are interested in reading more about the findings, take a look at this blog: COVID and Retail Environments – 5 Steps to Addressing Shifting Needs in a Changed World.)
Short pulse surveys provide several benefits – they answer an immediate question (in the case above how were people feeling about their local grocery stores) and are quick to create, field, and analyze thereby delivering timely insights to help make one decision at the time rather than trying to do everything at once.
Interestingly – and in hindsight – I’ll suggest that the third wave wasn’t necessary. Rather, it would have been more fruitful to field an adapted version of the questionnaire building previous responses and thereby expanding the insights.
Being comfortable with unasked questions allows us to take the knowledge that we have, draw upon it, and continually grow it. Iteration is vital within an agile approach. When iterating, the questions asked evolve, adapt, and change from one study to the next while building upon the knowledge obtained in the previous studies.
In essence, customer understandings will grow through continual dialogue. Business questions will be refined, and customer knowledge deepened as the rounds of feedback takes place. All from being comfortable with unasked questions – have no fear, they will be asked at the appropriate time.