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7 key lessons from Alida Activate

Written by Alida

Published June 17, 2024

The Activate conference included thought-provoking keynotes, customer success stories, and best practice advice from industry experts within the research community and if you missed the event, you can watch on-demand to get the complete picture.

In this article, we’ll explore seven lessons from the sessions that can help you level up your market research strategy.

Lesson 1: Avoid becoming fixated on the research process

Too often, researchers get caught up in the methodology of data collection, rather than the outcome. Judd Antin, executive coach and advisor, issued a wakeup call to researchers to change their mindset so they can have more impact. He lamented, “Over the last 10 or 15 years, we've done too much research that doesn't matter. It doesn't affect the product. It doesn't change decisions. It doesn't drive the strategy. I think we've done too much performative work, and we've been complacent about our role and a broken system.”

Leonard Murphy, Chief Advisor for Insights and Development at Greenbook, also acknowledged that over-emphasis on process can do more harm than good. “Research has been a process-driven function for a long time, but the value-add has never been the process,” he said. Instead, he reminded us that “the value-add has always been on the answer, the implications, and outcome.” 

Lesson 2: Adopt a flexible mindset

How do we shift our mindset away from being so process-driven? One way is accepting that research is never perfect. 

We’ve all been there.

Sometimes participants don’t show up to their interviews, or they aren’t the people you expected to attend. Sometimes technology fails in the middle of a virtual focus group. Sometimes questions don’t yield the information you need. 

As UX researcher Cory Lebson shared, “studies often aren’t exactly what we expected. In fact, rigidly sticking to a prescribed approach can reduce your ability to have an impact. Just because you’re surprised doesn’t mean you failed. It goes with the territory.” 

You need to be ok with that and stay flexible so you can extract the most value you can.

Lesson 3: Become an expert in the business

Rather than obsessing about methodologies, researchers must spend more time becoming business leaders. The best way to make an impact is to become an expert on the forces driving the business. Researchers need to put themselves in the driver’s seat, insert themselves in the decision-making process, and drive alignment across the business.

“When you start with fluency around the business and focusing on relationships, you think of your job not just as the primary research of customers and users, but also your colleagues from Day One,” Leonard emphasized.

Lesson 4: Partner with your stakeholders for greater impact

The more you align research with other teams and business functions, the more business impact you’ll have. When you tie your outcomes together, it becomes less of an issue to justify the value of research. “I refuse to set unique goals for research organizations,” Judd shared, asking, “Isn't it about product and business success for all of us? Let's sink or swim together.” 

Aligning your research schedule with business partners is a key to success, whether that means fitting into an Agile workflow, or ensuring that you build in extra time for research sprints. Ideally, stakeholders should be involved at every stage, from planning to execution. Leading a cross-functional team requires empathy and may require gentle prodding, but it’s worth the effort. 

“The best metric of success is relationship,” according to Lenny. “You’re successful when they can’t have meetings without you.”

Lesson 5: Mix research methodologies for different types of insights

There are numerous approaches to research, depending on your goals. Macro research is high altitude, strategic in nature, and enables business-first, long-term thinking. Micro research enables product and design excellence, uncovers specific customer pain points, and reduces user frustration – important work that drives profit directly.

Companies are blending survey research, focus groups, in-depth-interviews, and video conversations. They find tremendous value in being able to follow up with research participants to clarify responses, go deeper, and do longitudinal studies that inform iterative designs and ongoing improvements. 

Lesson 6: Take advantage of AI so you can focus on adding value

The level of AI capability for research will keep increasing at an exponential level. AI can turn one researcher into a full research agency by automating workflows. Entry points for using AI are first drafts of report writing, visualizations, and graphics – things that maintain human IP but optimize and accelerate the output.

Because AI can quickly analyze large amounts of data in different formats from different sources, it can identify patterns humans would never be able to detect and respond faster than manual methods. In addition, AI can automate repetitive tasks and avoid the common errors that humans are likely to make. 

That said, the research field has been slower to adopt AI compared with other industries due to security and integration concerns. Our model is data-dependent, which puts more pressure on research providers to automate quality and detect fraud. To do this, companies are looking to alternative sample sources and building their own panels. 

Lesson 7: Rely on the research community to keep learning

Although we’re undergoing a period of rapid change, we’re a learning discipline. Researchers are a global community here to help each other. No matter where you are in your career, be willing to learn from colleagues, ask for help when needed, and try new things to meet your goals. Keep sharing your experiences so we all grow together. 

In that spirit, you can watch all the keynotes, customer sessions, and workshops that were part of Alida Activate 2024 on-demand here.