Design Research

with Erika Hall

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Learn about research and critical thinking.

Erika Hall

Co-Founder of Mule Design, Author, Research & Design Expert

Lessons Learned

Research is critical thinking: finding and analyzing information in a systematic way.

Research ensures your fundamental business decisions are not based upon assumptions.

Any information that benefits your business is useful and successful as applied research.


Lesson: Design Research with Erika Hall

Step: # 3 Applied: Learn about research and critical thinking

Research is really, at the heart of it, just critical thinking. Aside from that, research is finding information and analyzing that information all in a systematic way. So, any time that you are answering a question, for yourself or in your work, you are doing research.

I think there are some people… like, there are various different types of research practices and methodologies. The type that I am really focused on is applied research. I think one of the things that puts some people off of doing research is that they think it is much more scientific than it actually is.

What I'm talking about isn't doing anything that is going to go into peer review journal. What you are trying to do isn't to add new human knowledge, you are just trying to find out anything that would be helpful to you in your business.

You are trying to find out about your customers, about your competitors, and, especially, about how people behave in the real world to make sure that your fundamental business decisions aren't based on assumptions but are based on actual evidence, or data.

Applied research is any research that is done in order to meet a goal. Its applied research in contrast to pure research or basic research.

A business can do both. A business can, in R&D, just say be working with a new material to better understand the properties of this new material and we don't have a particular application in mind.

Like you might do even some peer ethnographic research where you say, "Oh, well we are going to study this particular population, we're going to study teenagers in rural areas of the northwest in the U.S. Just to see how they behave, and it's not for any business purpose. We just really want to better understand this population and how they socialize."

That might be pure research. But then, if you study the same pool of teenagers to say "Oh, we want to develop a new music app, a mobile music app that targets this group of teenagers." You might do very similar activities, but the rigor will be lower.

You don't have to worry about your study being repeatable. You don't have to worry about eliminating all bias because applied research is successful to the extent that it benefits you. So, it can be flawed.

This is, I think, really important when people think about their capacity to do research. It is very important to be ethical and it is very important to make sure that there aren't flaws in the way that you are doing things that mean that you are drawing misleading conclusions.

Aside from that, you can conduct studies that are scientifically very imperfect and still get useful results because anything that benefits your business is useful and successful as applied research.

Whereas, for something to be considered "Oh, we've gone through a scientific process and here are the results." Those have to meet a much higher standard of scrutiny than what you need to do in your business.

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