Developing Highly Impactful Research Learning Agendas

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One of the most important skills for professionals in research, measurement, analytics, and insights to grow as leaders is the capability to create research learning agendas. This is a critical milestone for research and analytics leaders to accomplish before moving towards taking full responsibility for creating a department or team strategy.

Strong business impact from analytics and research can be achieved only based on a holistic and systematic approach to handling business questions and needs. Learning agendas represent a standard way in the industry to drive consumer-centric and data-driven decision-making. In this post, I refer to learning agendas as research learning agendas, however the same type of approach applies to measurement and analytics learning agendas.

For leaders in analytics and research it’s important to remember that the skill to build learning agendas is mainly developed and practiced though building research plans. This is a skill that research and analytics professionals working directly with business stakeholders usually acquire within the first 5 years of their careers.

At the same time, it is important to remember that research plans are different from research learning agendas. In a nutshell, research plans address one business or research question, where several studies or analyses are needed. Research learning agendas are a framework that outline key business issues and opportunities, research project goals, key areas of knowledge creation with associated methods, analyses, models, resources, and timings.

Development of a research learning agenda is a journey that consists of several important stages. For research leaders, it’s important to start with an open conversation with business stakeholders about their business questions and challenges, and possible decisions or actions these stakeholders are going to take based on the research results.

After business questions are clarified, research leaders need to review them holistically and develop the most suitable framework that will allow them to create a clear and consistent story for business stakeholders.

After the framework is finalised, the research team can start working on translating business questions into specific research questions. This NewMR blog post sheds more light on the critical differences between business and research questions. Please remember that it’s important to be as specific as possible in writing research questions. It is also very helpful to closely collaborate with business stakeholders to ensure that business questions are properly understood and interpreted.

Clearly defined research questions help research professionals to more easily identify the most suitable research methodologies and methods, as well as develop a specific set of research hypotheses.

After the scope of each project is clear, it’s time to start making specific plans about the execution of the research learning agenda – aligning business priorities and resources together. I advise research leaders to go into this stage of more specific planning only after each project in the learning agenda is in good shape and form. This allows research leader to more easily identify specific team members for leading specific projects and what resources they will require. This approach also enables research leaders to get faster and easier alignment with senior leadership as a detailed plan will provide a holistic picture and will set very clear expectations.

There are no two research learning agendas that are identical. However, there are research learning agendas that are set for success in driving strong business impact. To make your research learning agenda the most impactful, ask the following questions when you are making a decision on whether or not to include a business question into your learning agenda.

Last, but definitely not least, think not only about what was asked by your business stakeholders, but also what will be asked after you come back with the results of your research project.

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