Modern businesses know the value of research for pursuits like product development, innovation, roadmapping, and more, but crafting a clear strategy from a wealth of data isn’t always straightforward.

The sheer volume of information available in today’s complex business world quickly becomes overwhelming, making actionable insights elusive and effective strategies difficult to pinpoint.

Because of such difficulties, companies benefit greatly from partnering with an expert in research synthesis.

Research synthesis is the art and science of both gathering and wading through all relevant data in a company’s ecosystem to produce strategies and meet end goals. And it’s a discipline at which Method is particularly adept.

Infographic: Research Synthesis: Crafting Clear Strategies in a Sea of Data

Why Do Companies Need Research Synthesis?

The general concept of “research” sounds simple enough until you realize how many elements are involved — and how many can go wrong.

For example, Method’s research synthesis involves determining exactly what goal a research project should accomplish, who we should speak to in order to gather meaningful data, what questions we should ask, how to avoid biasing the responses, and which internal experts we should rely on to inform strategy.

It’s a big job, and teasing out actionable insights from so much data is a challenge. For many companies, in fact, the incredible volume of information and disparate goals among stakeholders results in a kind of analysis paralysis.

Developing a research project from scratch requires heavy investment from companies, and many lose their way as initial objectives become muddied. By partnering with a research synthesis expert like Method, businesses get an experienced team able to draw from a wealth of experience and carefully crafted processes.

The result is a detailed protocol custom-made for each client based on their specific needs and goals. Our systematic approach ensures consistency, proper note-taking, and efficient facilitation, all of which are critical when synthesizing large volumes of data.

Navigating Chaos and Challenges in Open-Ended Research Projects

Research involves multiple quantitative and qualitative sources of data, as well as a deep understanding of how these sources contribute to the overall goal of the project. It also means understanding the different contexts of data sources (end users, employees, executives, etc.) and asking the right questions within those contexts.

Synthesizing these vast amounts of information is chaotic, but it’s important to have inputs that run the gamut.

In a large, open-ended research project, there’s a constant risk of becoming distracted and losing sight of the overall goal, of missing the forest for the trees. Balance is challenging — there’s always a tendency to wander too deep into specific areas while overlooking others — but it’s crucial.

Narrowing the scope to specific goals from the beginning makes a vital difference, as does maintaining a clear vision statement based on those goals throughout the project. Further, we trust the process we’ve established as well as our team’s expertise.

To avoid getting lost in the details or sidetracked by pre-research assumptions, we hold the project goal(s) as our North Star and always involve multiple researches to keep any assumptions or personal biases in check.

In-person workshops with clients help us narrow the scope of projects and establish that clear goal. In-person sessions offer clarity on stakeholder points of view and provide opportunities to guide everyone through the process. Visual aids, such as whiteboarding exercises and artifacts, are often helpful for anchoring the process to the company’s end goal.

Flexibility is another key. A good research synthesis team remains open to surprising findings without needing to pivot the entire strategy. This adaptability allows us to adjust as we uncover new insights, leaving a more comprehensive overall footprint.

Quote: Research Synthesis: Crafting Clear Strategies in a Sea of Data

From Instincts to Insights to Strategy

Research synthesis isn’t just about gathering data; it’s about developing actionable insights. This requires integrating insights into a clear, actionable roadmap.

From the beginning, we consider what type of deliverables will best inform the research and lead to successful outcomes. One important factor is avoiding overreliance on instinct — something companies often find difficult internally.

Many businesses and employees suspect they have an idea of where research is most needed and perhaps even what the outcomes will be. A fresh set of experienced eyes offers an objective strategy, ensuring companies get research that uncovers the real situation and, often, provides unexpected breakthroughs.

Along the way, we consult internal experts to identify potential future needs and roadblocks to help us determine where to put our efforts. For instance, there’s no point in sinking resources into research regarding a specific technological solution if that technology isn’t viable.

Once we collect the necessary data, the next step is synthesis. We establish themes that guide our direction and ensure we stay on track, such as pain points, opportunities, or other significant patterns. We ensure all insights are based on supporting data points, allowing us to create a tactical strategy that aligns with our findings.

The Future of Research Synthesis

Research synthesis exists at a fascinating time, with new tools and technologies emerging faster than news cycles can cover them.

Frameworks like Method’s own Journey Map Kit are gaining traction because they offer a robust structure for creating large-scale deliverables. Transcription tools allow researchers to transcribe audio or video interviews quickly, making it easier to extract key insights from large troves of data. Automations increasingly take time-consuming, manual processes off researchers’ plates, and collaborative tools facilitate easier communication and greater transparency on projects.

With tools like these, researchers can dedicate more of their time to analyzing, synthesizing, and problem-solving, drawing effective insights from that sea of data.

I look forward to seeing where new and emerging technology will supplement existing research synthesis processes, allowing human creativity and expertise more freedom to provide companies with the strategy they need.