I like to keep a few books near my desk to flick through when I need a prompt to look at the world with fresh eyes. My favourites are often punchy collections of knowledge from fields not directly related to customer experience or insight, and one of those is 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School.
Leafing through it today, I came across the entry "don't presume the solution", which reminds us that...
"At the point a designer is invited into the design process, many assumptions have often been made about the nature of a problem, the causes, and the desired solutions."
Ain't that the truth? Whether it comes to putting together a brief for a new CRM system, designing a new customer journey, or simply planning a piece of research, we often find ourselves picking up a project long after some of the most important decisions have been made. When we can, it's a good idea to try to push backwards to examine the assumptions that have been made, and think about how best to meet the true need of our end user (which may be wildly different from what they think it is!)
One challenge in research is often finding the sample to address the question we need to answer. A classic example: a business to business supplier wants to look at the new business journey, so they provide us with a database of new customers so that we can conduct a survey and find out what customers thought of the experience.
Sounds sensible? To a point. What's the real business question here? Implicitly, "how do we persuade more customers to sign up?" The easy approach (talk to new customers) may be helpful, but it doesn't let us address the really important question, which is what's the difference between customers who sign up and those who don't. If we know that, then we're likely to identify some opportunities to persuade more customers to sign up in the future.
This is a good example of "presuming the solution" when it customers to customer insight. If you're writing a research brief, make sure that you articulate as clearly as possible what you really need to know, and why. By all means specify the way you'd like us to approach the research if you have something in mind, but tell us why and we may be able to suggest something even better.