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The Sweet Spot Between Rigor and Agility

Posted by Conifer Research on October 21, 2019

Topics: Why Conifer?

Wouldn’t having an unlimited amount of time and spend for your research projects be great? Imagine the problems that would solve for you and your team; the number of questions you could answer and insights you could deliver. There would be no more time inefficiencies or budgetary restrictions to fret over. No more overworked team members to coax or disgruntled stakeholders appease. Did someone say promotion?

Ahh, that was a nice daydream, but time to check back into reality. Unfortunately, the truth is no one has a limitless amount of time or money and MR teams are often left making the unspoken trade-off between one of them. There is either some dimension of TIME or MONEY* or unholy equivalent of the two being sacrificed when thinking about a project.

* If you wonder where quality fits above, from the famous triad of "Better, Faster, Cheaper":- Conifer believes that quality is just table stakes.  

At Conifer, we know our clients are faced with the inevitable pressure to decide between the two. One of the most common questions we hear is: how do I save time, money, or both? Read on for more about how our team balances agility and rigor.

Finding the Sweet Spot

Anyone working in MRX and insights knows that there is no "one size fits" all solution to answer business questions. Just because some new approach is trending does not necessarily mean it is right for you. Every research project is different and deserves its own unique framework. 

We begin every new project by having an honest, open dialogue with clients. Through this initial conversation we diagnose the project scope and strategically design custom solutions based on project needs. By laying out the initial concept to desired end goals we get extremely clear on the project timeline and recommended approach. At the core of this process is asking the right questions to determine needs, expectations, and desired outcomes. We synthesize these into deliberate and effective plans for the best use of time and resources. These candid conversations about the study's approach are integral to project success. 

For example, an "agile" project will differ from a rigorous foundational program. These two approaches can vary greatly in the amount of time, money, resources and even in the team collaboration demands.

Agile, sprint-based research programs are fast-paced, intensive and provide teams with momentum. They require swift and coordinated teamwork in order to act as accelerators to propel teams forward. Each sprint efforts must be focused in order to deliver against the business goals - which means teams must be open to the fact that they may not accomplish everything in one fell-swoop. After all, the agile methodology is all about iteration, or as they say "progress, not perfection". 

If your team is looking to spark new thinking and build momentum, these accelerators can get the job done:

  • Living Labs: iterative, contextual prototype and concept testing 
  • Immersions: in-field experiences to gain first-hand inspiration
  • Targeted Remote Research: unboxing, concept reviews, scavenger hunts and other creative activities to generate inspiration and context
  • Idea Incubation: collaborative ideation and concept development through team summits,  safaris, and design sprints 

On the other hand, fast and furious is not always the right choice. Stumbling across latent needs in an accelerator program is not a sure bet, because those insights need to emerge from patterns across large catalogs of data. When your business question requires depth and rigor, this requires teams to slow down in order to speed up.

Rigorous research programs require more planning, in-depth analysis  and synthesis on the back-end. These programs typically coordinate multiple data streams of data, with strategic collaboration milestones and stakeholder involvement along the way.  The result is rich and thick data with insights and opportunity spaces that often fuel teams for years to come. These programs are investments, but yield outcomes that provide teams with the confidence to make large, scaleable market decisions. 

Rigorous programs at Conifer take all shapes and sizes. While some are 8-10 weeks others may require longitudinal, year-long efforts. 

  • Audience Definition: bringing key segments or personas to life
  • Customer Journeys: understanding paths to purchase and holistic user experiences
  • Pipeline Development: identifying and defining user needs and transforming them into innovation roadmaps
  • Market Readiness: aligning MarCom initiatives to inform effective marketing and communication strategies
  • Foundational Ethnographies: longitudinal immersion in consumers lives

Every research project is different. Project timelines and scoping should be based not on trends, but on the most effective way of getting to the final insight moment. This is why flexibility is one of Conifer's core values: we believe in custom approaches, applying our creativity and expertise to overcome our client partners constraints. Our ability to be nimble in finding the sweet spot for every project is a part of what keeps the work interesting! By diagnosing the scope and need of every project, we make thoughtful tradeoffs and design a framework that strikes the right balance between agility and rigor.


Get Your DiagnosisCurious how Conifer can help your brand foster innovative thinking and uncover perspective shifting insights? Check out our ResearchRX diagnostic quiz to find out what type of project would best suit your need!

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