An approach to conducting meaningful research

I would like to softly explain the concept of research to those who are often asked to do research such as competitive research, but honestly do not understand the significance of research or are not good at organizing and processing the information they have researched.

At the company where I work, I often see people spending so much time researching that all they do is collect information, which I think is a waste of time. I would like to write down my thoughts at this point.

#1. Introduction – Research is about gathering and organizing meaningful information.

I believe that research is the process of gathering information and facts in response to a subject ((1) information gathering) and then structurally organizing the gathered information into meaningful information ((2) information organization).

More specifically, I believe it is no exaggeration to say that if you are not able to extract insights that help you make business decisions, then it is not research.

In order to extract market-winning insights, it is necessary to design research according to the subject, collect information, and compile it into meaningful information, and in order to compile it into meaningful information, it is necessary to have the ability to find implications from the collected information.

Here, we would like to describe my thinking and key points on how to proceed with research, (1) information gathering and (2) information organization.

#2. How to proceed with research

For the sake of convenience, I would like to describe my thinking on how to proceed with research by dividing it into three major processes: (i) identifying the subject and objectives, (ii) designing the research itself, and (iii) conducting the research and creating outputs.

(i) Correctly identify the subject and objectives

First and foremost, it is very important to correctly identify the subject and objectives.

For example, the scope and depth of research to be conducted will vary depending on whether you are considering the development of a new function or a marketing plan.
If you don’t identify the subject and purpose, you may start researching, but you may not know what to look for, and the process of gathering information may become an objective in itself, and you may end up not being able to answer the original question – what direction should our business go? and stuff like that.

I think it is important to always clarify what issues we want to solve with the insights gained from the research before starting the research or asking members of the team to work on it.

(ii) Design research

Once you have identified your topic and objectives, you will know how much research you need to do – how much time, how comprehensive, and how detailed – and you can design the research itself to determine which information sources to hit and when and in what order.

I recommend that you first do a quick search to get a general idea of whether it is better to actually use similar services yourself to make observations, pick information from public agency research reports, or gather secondary information through web searches. From this, you can estimate how much time you will spend on each survey and how much time you will need to produce an output of the survey results. It is important to develop a work plan in advance so that you can gather the necessary information and convert it into meaningful information within the allotted time.

(iii) Conduct research and create outputs

When executing research according to the plan, it is important to be able to identify the freshness and source of each piece of information so that you can be sure of the veracity of the information.

The key is to proceed with the research while thinking about how it could be organized.
If additional information becomes necessary in the process of organizing, it is advisable to flexibly change the plan and collect that information, even if you did not have it in mind when you created your research plan. We collect information with the purpose of the research we are working on in mind, such as what is important for the business we are currently working on to gain a competitive advantage, and then we look at the information we have collected, think about it again, and consider how we should organize it.Then, we re-collect information that is not organized properly, find implications of the information we have collected, and generate insights that lead to answers to the question, “What should our business do?

I believe that this kind of repetitive thought process and thinking ability is required in research.

#3. (1)Information gathering -How to Gather Information

There are various ways to gather qualitative information, including web searches, article searches, reference to private research reports, surveys, social listening, etc. It is important to take the appropriate approach to gathering information according to your objectives.

Web search is an easy way to initially determine which research approach is best for you and to input basic knowledge, so I would like to write down some tips.

My tips for Web search are as follows :

A. Devise search keywords
 └ Try multiple alternative keywords for the keywords related to the content you want to research
 └ Find important related keywords while researching.
 └ Try combining them
 └ Search in multiple languages and use language-specific search engines
    (Naver, Baidu, Qihoo, etc.)
B. Sometimes utilize image search to quickly find the best page
C. Take advantage of the logical operators in Google search
  (or, and, “”, cache, etc.)
D. Keep your antennae up on a daily basis with a high level of information sensitivity
  (Google Alerts, Twitter, Quartz, Dow Jones Factiva, etc.)

Also, in terms of work efficiency, it is a good idea to open pages in separate tabs and then determine whether they are usable or not, and if there is usable information, to look at each page at once while making a note of the page information and set of page information.

I also recommend that you set a goal and time for your web search before you begin, because it is easy to get away from your goal and spend time researching your own interests while you are searching the web. 

#4. (2)Organizing information -How to make sense of it

The first step in finding insights is to structure the information gathered.

“Structured” means that the overall picture can be grasped, its components are clear, and the relationships among the components are organized in a MECE manner. It is important to collect information and systematize it while considering what kind of structuring can be done to generate important insights for the objectives and from what perspective it would be best to collect the information.

Structuring requires skills to define the scope, to decompose the information into components of meaningful cohesion, and to find relationships among the components. These skills require intuition based on a certain amount of experience and training in logical thinking, so I think the only way to improve is to find a good instructor and gain experience.

#5. Conclusion

In order to plan/design a more effective plan for the business we are providing, it is necessary to have a process of essentially understanding the overall flow of the market, the challenges and pain points of users. It is nearly impossible to create a good service without knowing what businesses and services are doing well, what society and users are demanding, and what business models and mechanisms are in place today.

The simplest and most reliable answer to the question of why we can create the best service is because we look at services around the world and combine the best practices. I would like to cultivate the ability to recognize good best practices and the ability to combine existing best practices with our own services, rather than simply imitating them.

#6. References

The Craft of Research, Fourth Edition