Myth: Research doesn’t do anything but sit on the shelf and collect dust.

Well…I’d love to raise my nose in the air and snootily say, “That is ridiculous. That sort of thing does not happen!” But I’m pretty sure many of us have witnessed times in which it indeed has been the case. It’s interesting really, because the fact is that nobody wants it to end up that way. Not the people who paid for it, not the people who conducted it…and you know, even participants like to feel that they’ve made a valuable contribution via their role.

If that’s the case, then why does this happen? I suggest several scenarios:

  1. The information isn’t all that great. This could be because the firm doing the market research didn’t do a good job conducting it, or maybe they stopped too soon – that is, maybe they did do good work conducting it, but didn’t take it to the next level – they didn’t look for insights and actions tucked away in all of that data and conversation.
  2. The organization isn’t prepared to use it. Sometimes this can be fed by the fact that the research firm they’re working with didn’t take it to the next level, which makes it less actionable, I’ll admit. But other times, the organization paying for it wasn’t quite ready to listen or make changes in the first place…so it just sits there on a shelf. And let’s face it, even the best data typically has an expiration date on its usefulness.
  3. The organization doesn’t like what they hear, so they disregard it. We’ve seen it happen. It can be very hard to hear negative things about your organization, so there’s a tendency to want to defend current products or processes if you’re receiving information that isn’t entirely complimentary.

I’m sure there are other reasons, and if you’d like to add to the list, feel free.

Much of this list seems to suggest that lazy, shelf-occupying research is the fault of the organization buying it, and not the firm conducting it. But that isn’t really the takeaway, here. What I want to emphasize most is that research isn’t meant to sit on a shelf collecting dust, and an engaged and insightful firm will help you make sure that it doesn’t. They’ll have a more intimate understanding of your organization and the landscape in which you function. This is the kind of research – and relationship – that helps you effectively use that research to your advantage.

I’m calling this one PLAUSIBLE, realizing that the fate of any research, no matter how good it is, still depends on the ability of the firm doing the research to provide actionable insights, and the willingness of the organization to heed what the research is telling them.

Has your research fallen victim to a weekly visit with a feather duster, or did you find ways to fold what you learned from it into your organization?