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4 Ways to Mitigate Risk in Product Development Research

by Brianna Sylver

In the market research industry, discussions around new product development research all too often focus on methodologies and techniques. Bottom line, there are many stages to a product’s development.

Different research methodologies are more or less relevant depending upon the stage that you’re in and the focus of a particular study. I won’t rehash what I believe the relative strengths and weaknesses of different research methodologies for product development to be. I’ve already written that article.

Rather, what I will say, is that assumptions are all too often the big elephant in the room when the conversation turns to new product development research. And it is assumptions – and more specifically, unspoken ones – that all too often impede companies from finding true innovations that will be openly received by their customers, not so much the methodologies they use for their research inquiries.

Let’s face it, assumptions – whether originating from a client or the researcher – form the foundation of any research initiative, from the decision of whether you design a broad, mid-ranged or closer in focused study to the methods and techniques you choose for data collection and analysis to how you package the results for client consumption. Problem is, many times assumptions are disguised as facts or “documented truths” and that’s when trouble looms.

People start working off of these assumptions, believing that they are “documented truths.” They never question their source or validity. But, one erroneous assumption has the potential to ruin a product, even an entire brand.

So, at Sylver Consulting, we make it our mission at the start of any project to parse out the assumptions from the “documented truths” guiding our clients. We’ve found four methods to be particularly helpful.

  1. Prior research.

    In most cases, companies are referencing previous research – whether primary or secondary – to inform where they want to start their inquiry. Getting your hands on this data will help you to understand how they have arrived at those decisions.

  2. Stakeholder interviews.

    Sometimes we’ll do this as individual interviews and in other instances we’ll facilitate an “Assumptions” exercise as part of a kick-off. Regardless, focus is on uncovering each individual’s perspective on why they think the research we’re starting is important and learning what they already know versus what they need to know to be successful in the future.

  3. Assumptions mapping.

    Write out on paper the assumptions that are impacting the design of your study. Review this list with your client. Many times any assumptions flying under the radar as facts will quickly bubble to the surface once it’s clear that your decisions as the researcher as being based on these “documented truths.”

  4. Regular debriefs.

    As extra insurance, include regular debriefs in your schedule as you collect data. Pay attention to your client’s reactions and comments at these debriefs. This will not only keep you informed about how this project, and their assumptions, may have organically evolved internally since the project’s conception, but it will also give you a sense for how your direct contacts are planning to position and sell the outcomes of the research within the organization after-the-fact.

  • 2021
  • Product Development
  • Risk Management
  • Research Methods

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