By coincidence, I read two articles this past week on the theme of, “less is more.” These articles were not specific to market research, yet they do apply.

Less is More, for Market Research Credibility

In the February 2012 issue of Inc. Magazine, Twitter and Blogger co-founder Evan Williams promotes the idea of doing less. That is,  “If you have too many things to think about, you’ll get to the superficial solution—not the brilliant one.”  For we researchers, this is a hard balance. On one hand, we know that the value of analysis seldom comes from focusing on one or two data points—it comes from identifying recurring themes and patterns. Indeed, we often talk about “weaving” together a story from multiple data points.  But we also know that at the other extreme, dumping too much data in a client’s lap, leads to disaster: they turn off, stop listening, and even judge us as unable to prioritize or synthesize, thus hurting our profession’s credibility.  Allowing people to focus more on fewer items, does enhance how market research is perceived.

Less is More, for Richer Market Research Analysis

In the Sunday New York Times (January 20th, 2013 edition), Matthew E. May wrote about, “The Art of Adding Through Taking Away.”  The article points to the strength of this wisdom through ancient proverb and more recently by quoting Jim Collins, who apparently observed that, “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort …and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting…”

This is so true for those of us who write market research reports. It is always a challenge to hold back—we find so many interesting and tempting data points in a single study. Yet we know that the discipline to reduce our work to its core essence is essential, and will even help us to create more meaningful analyses. A good market researcher will find many interesting things to report; a great one will focus on fewer items but bridge the gap to actionable insights.  The restraint is not easy, but is always rewarded.

 

[Report writing strategies are covered in Research Rockstar’s Project Management class. Next session starts February 28th and meets once a week for 4 weeks.]

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