The atomic unit of a research insight

When you conduct research with users, whether a usability test, interview, or field observation, you’re looking for answers to your research questions.

These research questions are knowledge gaps your team (or client) has identified. Most research findings and insights are usually communicated through a report. The nature of research with users (and of these reports) is that you always learn more than what you intended to learn. As a result many reports include unrelated topics, insights, and findings that could prove useful in the future.

In an organization where multiple research studies are conducted every week, month, or year by a variety of researchers, these reports pile up quickly. Then, when a team member, executive, or client asks a question about a certain topic (e.g., what do we know about how our users book conference rooms?), there’s a need to rely on the long-term memory of researchers who happened to conduct related studies. In other cases, people mine through long reports trying to understand what was a meaningful insight. However, in other cases, ‘non-researchers’ have observations about users every day that are not necessarily documented.

My conclusion is that a report is not the atomic unit of a research insight.

A nugget, as I like to call it, is an observation gathered through research. The idea is that every time we sample the member experience we can parse that into nuggets that are tagged for future use.

Here’s an example.

Let’s imagine a WeWork UX team member interviewed a WeWork member who decided to leave WeWork. Let’s also imagine that the member was interviewed and video recorded.

After the interview, a WeWork UX team member (not necessarily the one that conducted the interview) is making sense out of it and creating nuggets.

Here is an imaginary way of what we do with a research observation and how we tag it:

  • Title: Exit interview with Primary Member, John Smith

Imagine 1,000 such nuggets. Properly tagged, well defined, easily searched and found. Beats any report.

Benjamin Gadbaw and I created the atomic research approach and Polaris product and framework.

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Head of User Research & Metrics at Goldman Sachs, Author of Validating Product Ideas and It's Our Research, Ex-Google, Ex-WeWork, WWE fanboy. 2∞&→