Rapid iteration is powerful and freeing. From a psychological perspective alone, agile research allows us to break down the overwhelming task of "getting it perfect." Instead, it frees us up to try something, evaluate it, and then tweak it for the better.
Long before the market research industry fell in love with the word “agile,” the tech industry was already there. They had software development, working cycles, and evaluation strategies focused on agility. They knew the value of progress and speed above having the end goal fully visualized.
In a time of “doing more with less,” anything that allows for that speed, price, and efficiency wins. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve excitedly adopted the concept of agility into our market research platform. Learning as you go, not being caught up in red tape as you work, and having answers soon after you have the question – that’s powerful stuff.
I’m not sure, however, that we spend enough time talking about how risky it can be.
Rapid iterative research, fast feedback loops for directional answers, survey platforms – these aren’t new. These have long been used to complement the business process they’re informing. Within the past three years or so, I’ve seen the concept of “agile research” used increasingly as a solution to the bureaucracy, cost, and slowness that bog down company innovation and decision-making processes. In some of these cases, instead of becoming a powerful tool, “agile research” starts to take over the whole toolkit.
As researchers, we know not all answers are created equal. Rapid information can be incredibly disorienting without the right context. Having an “answer” can be very powerful – whether or not it’s the right one.
I had a brainstorming session with my team on all things agile research. What we spent our time discussing boiled down to three major themes:
One of my team members had the experience of her past company “investing in an agile research platform.” This unlocked a great tool and inspired new working styles. However, the subscription cost also meant less ability to afford other tools and an added push to use this new platform as much as possible to prove the ROI.
We wondered, if a significant upfront platform investment is required to do agile research, how agile are you left being across your research and decision-making toolkit?
Building the ongoing research programs (e.g., CX, tracking, syndicated) that put pertinent information at the ready, while not agile systems themselves, are key enablers of an agile workplace. Setting up ways to get those ongoing insights in the hands of decision-makers enables improved decision-making instantly.
Democratizing the data and insights already available is something we talk about a lot as an industry but maybe not as much as we should within the framework of agility.
The breadth of methodologies we use as a research industry evolved because different questions need different approaches to get the right answer. And some decisions can’t be informed by a traditional “question” at all!
All this said, there's clearly some room for improvement in the agile research workspace, especially when trying to bring this into a market research platform.
So, at Glass, we’re trying something different. We’re making a bet that removing the expert – yes, a human one – isn’t the only way toward a lower cost and faster timelines. What that looks like, for us, is:
Every company wants to be agile. But every company also wants quality research, expert insights, and key results. Ideally, these things can go hand in hand, as we're aiming to achieve at Glass.
Let's continue to pave the path forward towards new and better market research.