Don’t get lost in a forest of data – focus your research.

My wife and I are currently in the process of “re-doing” our bedroom. It’s a process we’ve previously been through a few times with other rooms but, despite this experience, we’re not great at it. We both agree that a room needs freshening up but neither of us are great at visualising what we eventually want the room to look like. The process takes ages as we update the different parts of the room in a piecemeal fashion hoping that the new carpet, newly painted walls and the new furniture will all come together to make something fabulous. We tend to get to OK but never quite to fabulous.

Market research can be a bit like that. Unless you’ve got a clear vision of where you’re going and what you’re aiming to get of it, then you can find it takes up lots of time and you don’t quite get to where you wanted to go.

In the Information Age in which we now live a common complaint is that there is too much data, that it’s impossible to process it and make sense of it all. Against this background market research based on primary data collection should have an advantage. It should be focused on clear objectives and, therefore, designed to obtain the data required to meet those objectives.

However, objectives can become fuzzy. We can lose sight of what the research was originally supposed to achieve. More and more questions get included, generating more and more data. The more data we have the better, right? Well, no, not really.

A well designed, focused market research programme will produce data that tells a clear story. The time needed to make sense of it all is shortened. There will be no need to fish in a sea of data hoping to catch something interesting. As Philp Tetlock and Dan Gardner write in their excellent book Superforecasting, The Art & Science of Prediction, “If you aimlessly examine one tree, then another, and another, you will quickly become lost in the forest.”

Resist collecting piles of data hoping to make sense of it later, make sure your research is focused right from the start.

Related posts:

Purpose: A market researcher's best friend


Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (Random House Books, 2016)




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