I’ve been thinking about how the knowledge we create in the research and analytics process makes its way through an organization.
First, when you commission a study, only a couple of people have any sense of what the study can tell your organization. The questionnaire writer, the analyst, and the report writer—who may all be the same person—have the best knowledge about what was asked and what the data say. If you are working with something other than survey data, the set of people who have looked at the frequencies, the model results, or the correlations is still small. This first ripple is deepest, being closest to the data source that comes into your organization.
After the analysts and report writers sift through the data and find the insights, the ripple reaches the decision makers. They internalize the data and use the information and insights to develop a strategy and decide a course of action for the organization. The decision makers are likely to know only the most relevant numbers and stats from the analysis. The ripple isn’t as deep, but it reaches farther from the point of origin.
Lastly, after the decisions are made and strategies are chosen, the organization must act on the new plan. Ideally, everyone will know the key facts from the analysis that show why the organization is heading in the chosen direction. Here the ripple is the shallowest, but the widest in diameter. More people in the organization know why they are taking the course of action they are, but they know less about the data that led to that course of action.
These ripples work best when the “rock” thrown into the knowledge pool is solid—a well-designed body of research and analyses. Poorly designed research will be like a bunch of small pebbles that don’t hold together. The ripples won’t reach very far and may even interfere with each other.
Thinking carefully about what questions the organization has, creating a knowledge plan, and, importantly, creating an insights sharing plan will create big ripples that sustain the organization and provide a stream from which to build new knowledge pools.