How to make research highly actionable?

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Research actionability is a broadly discussed topic in the industry in the last years. However, I still find the outline provided by O. Mahmoud in his book “The Boots & The Tower. Actionable Market Research” very holistic and useful for everyday work.

Making research results and insights generated based on a study actionable depends a lot on the communication with the multifunctional teams inside the organization.

The picture below summarizes the key reasons why multifunctional teams don’t act on the research findings and business recommendations provided based on the study (Mahmoud, 2006).


Adapted from Mahmoud (2006)

The multifuntional teams can just not understand the research results. One of its reasons may be related with the lack of the teams involvement in the research set-up. Also, it can driven by the fact that the teams don’t see the link between the research methodology used /results obtained and recommendations provided.

It can also happen that the multifunctional teams don’t want to act on the study recommendations because they feel disengaged with the research or they feel just imposed to the results. As I’ve mentioned before, initial involvement of the team can help a lot with this, as well as guidance on how the study has been conducted, why specific study objectives and research questions have been selected (you can more on this topic in my Webinar “Video is a powerful tool to communicate innovative research methodologies”).

In these cases alignment of the action standard before conducting the study can help to facilitate the process of the business decision-making. Hence, it’s very beneficial both for insights and multifucntional teams to develop and agree on the action standards before the research is commissioned (Mahmoud, 2006).

Sometimes the teams don’t agree with the findings because they come against available or popular ideas, already existing plans and/or vision. In that case it’s very important to make a holistic preparation for the results presentation and find the reasons for this contradiction building the links with the previous studies.

Multifunctional teams can also find the learnings not actionable due to various non-consumer reasons, for instance, while the research was taking place business priorities and agenda had been changed. In that case, it’s important to understand the reasons of the most recent changes and find some potential ways on how the study can fuel these changes, or share watch-outs of the new plans execution.

It also happens that the multifunctional teams know the research results, but still haven’t acted on them. In that case more granular business recommendations can help, as well as the understanding of the business cycle where the recommendations can be considered in more details and become more actionable.

Overall, to make research actionable it’s really critical to be very holistic with the analysis and development of the business recommendations. As Mahmoud (2006) highlights in his book: “Turn the data into information and knowledge, change your questions and look at the research findings with a fresh mind-set. Learn from other countries and categories. Make unusual connections between the research information and other sources of knowledge. Research gives you facts. Your thinking should provide you with the conclusions and the action“.

As one of the studies conducted by The Boston Consulting Group shows: “Today’s marketing organizations are awash in data generated from such disparate sources as websites, social media, sales, mobile devices, and customer-relationship-management systems” (BCG, 2015).

On top of the already discussed ideas, such approaches as storytelling and consumer models can help consumer insights professionals to address the key reasons why multifunctional teams don’t take research findings and recommendations into direct action (BCG, 2015; Mahmoud, 2006).

As I’ve outlined in the blog post Blending analytical and research capabilities, consumer models allow insights professionals to organize data search and translate it into actionable business recommendations. “Models help to put everyone’s mental models and assumptions on the table for clarification, refinement and alignment” (Mahmoud, 2006).

Sources: 1. Mahmoud, O. (2006). The Boots & The Tower. Actionable Market Research. [pdf]; 2. Visser, J., Field, D., Sheerin,A. (2015). The Agile Marketing Organization. The Boston Consulting Group. Available at: [Accessed 28 Dec 2018].

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