A constantly active research laboratory in which science and skills become a tool for listening deeply to people, to design extraordinary experiences together with companies.
People and experiences are the constant in the activities of the TSW Research team, a working group that welcomes and listens to the experiences of our customers’ customers every day to bring value to projects, through the scientific approach and the skills of specialized figures.
What does it mean, however, to design research with the aim of improving the quality of experiences?
Planning a research correctly is one of the most underestimated steps by those unfamiliar with the scientific approach. The planning and the method are the crucial elements for enjoying quality results and, consequently, for the activity to make sense.
In representing this complexity, a scientific study is often compared to the construction of a house. The first stages of building a house do not involve any physical elements. First of all, we start from the project of an architect and/or an engineer, based on people’s needs and on technique, understood as a form of knowledge and a set of tools made available to obtain the desired result.
What really is the realization of that building is, therefore, the project itself. The starting point and the point of arrival, in which, in the center, different figures move towards its creation.
Just as in the building context, there are also different skills in research. There are many research methodologies and they can follow different rules: hence the natural need for vertical figures, each of which is specialized in carrying out certain types of tests. To understand how complex (but relevant) it can be, just think that there are specific degree courses on research methodology.
In this article we will try to exemplify, albeit in a concise way, the reasoning necessary to set up a research so as to understand the complexity and value at the base of the most characteristic activities of the TSW approach, in which the scientific method is a tool for creating, together with the people, better experiences.
The first question to unmark is related to the research question. What do we want to find out with research? Here it becomes useful to differentiate projects that have a divergent purpose from a convergent one. In the former, there are no hypotheses, but it is a question of better understanding certain dynamics, arriving at comprehending them, because somehow we know that we are not considering all points of view. The latter, on the other hand, aim to quantify and make predigested reasoning objective.
In divergent projects, tools of a qualitative nature come in handy, such as interviews for example. There is no specific research question but there is a context of interest that we wish to explore further (not to be confused with the research question with generic interest).
To be able to deepen it is necessary to involve the people who can give us more information. In this context, the really characterizing element is the experience of the people. It therefore means who uses that service, or that of the competitor and who has that need.
Given the exploratory nature it is in no way functional to try to represent market shares. The goal is to allow us to enter into reasoning logics that are outside of what we have made allowance for, not to map them all. These logics are linked to behavioural dynamics and needs. So these are the issues that should guide us in selecting the champion.
However, when you approach a convergent project, the issues change. This type of project aims to explain events through a hypothesis that must be verified (or rather falsified, when using the scientific method).
In this case, therefore, it is the research hypothesis that must shape the structure of the project. All the characteristics that, according to our hypothesis, impact on the result must be treated as independent variables. In other words, we need to reach a minimum number of people to be able to represent what they are saying.
Let’s try an example. A brand from the world of underwear asks us to carry out a research. The brand in question is well positioned in the women’s sector (about 80% of its consumers).
If the company were to ask us for a survey related to the understanding of needs (divergent project) to start developing a new business, which could have an impact on both the male and female world, we should start by involving at least 5 female and 5 male gender (assuming that products and needs are different).
If instead the project were convergent, we would have to define the research question. Let’s assume that it is a question of understanding whether a product can be effective in both the male and female groups. In this case I should involve at least 100 people of each gender (200 overall).
It is a different matter if the goal is to understand how a service can impact the business. At that point, it should be necessary to represent the shares of the categories (and therefore 80% female and 20% male).
The logics described constitute small pieces of the research. Usually, it is the union of divergent and convergent approaches that represents the way in which scientific research is set up. There is a first phase of observation or simulation with a small number of people, which leads us to generalize a reasoning.
The result of this divergent (or inductive) process is a theory. This theory is the basis of our research question, which precedes our experiment and will have to allow us to verify it (or better to falsify it). We will then proceed to apply the deductive method.
Adherence to this working method is what provides value to research. Otherwise, you have to resort to a typical saying of computer science that can be defined as eloquent: “Garbage In, Garbage out”.
Setting up a research project therefore means standing next to people, involving them directly and listening to their needs, but under the careful guidance of a scientific approach: this is the only way of working that allows us to support companies, help them listen to customers and, together, design a tomorrow where experiences will be better.