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What’s the point of research?

22/10/2019

That might seem an odd question coming from someone who makes their living from the stuff but it’s a question I have been asking myself for a while now.

For years, I’ve commissioned research for the brands and the businesses I’ve worked for. Whether it be to redesign a magazine or website or to launch a new event or product, research amongst clients, customers and audiences has been critical to the decision-making process.

For the last two years however, through Rii, I have turned provider, so I’ve been thinking a bit more fundamentally about it all.

And here is what I’ve found in my own research on research. It touches almost every aspect of our lives from the vitally important to the mundane and largely, we don’t even notice it.

Without research, we would live in a world of guesswork and hunches. Everything, from the average Joe searching for a new recipe for dinner (that’s usually me) to deeply clever people (that’s usually someone else) exploring the concepts of space and time, requires research.

Whether you are scouring the reviews on IMDb before choosing what film to go and see or are devouring baby books before the birth of your first child, research enters so many aspects of our day to day lives.

No successful film is made, or book written without a huge amount of preparation going into it. Which requires research, and lots of it.

No business is set up or strategy launched without months (sometimes years) of research, planning and testing taking place.

And no scientific breakthrough or cure for illness is ever achieved on someone taking a punt.

Of course, there is a huge variety in the type of research that is being applied in each of these examples but the common denominator in all of it is the purpose – to undertake an investigation of some kind to establish facts or reach new conclusions.

But what you do with those facts or conclusions is vitally important. Insight without action removes half of its value, to leave it occupying the “that’s interesting” space.

Through research, we are trying to tame a world of chance and chaos and make success more likely, whether that be increasing the likelihood of enjoying a film or reducing the chances of raising a career criminal. And that’s important.

The applications in business are no less pertinent or important. Insight allows you to get much closer to understanding what it is you need to achieve and how to go about achieving it. It allows you to really understand what your customers, employees or peers think of your business and its services.

It can help you identify opportunities that might otherwise have been obscured from your vision. And it can reaffirm that your instincts were either right or wrong and help you form a plan of action on the back of it.

Ultimately, it provides a much greater level of certainty and comfort so that when you do take the plunge, you’re more likely than not to come up swimming.

Research seeks to bring us closer to the truth of whatever is being investigated. It looks to go beyond the “I reckons” and get to the “I believes” and that level of certainty is invaluable, regardless of the application.

So where has all this thinking taken me? To the conclusion that the truth is out there, and it comes in the form of research …

Phil Davison, MD, Research in Insurance

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