87% of statistics are made up. Yep. 87%. Or so said Dilbert.
Unfortunately, evidence from research is often a critical tool used to mitigate risk when making decisions or to validate a hypothesis of which problem to solve or solution to develop. In fact, in a report published by the Market Research Society (2016), their own research found that 72% of participants claim their organisation uses insight to drive decision making. This is in a UK Market Research Industry where clients spend £4.8 Billion each year (PwC 'Business of Evidence' via MRS, 2016) gathering the right evidence.
So, when I see 'evidence' being presented like this at a conference, I want to crawl into a little hole and hide. This type of lazy presenting is damaging to the credibility of our industry:
So, how might this (un-named) presenter have improved the representation of critical research evidence? See my tips below:
1. Robust evidence as a foundation
A strong foundation requires a well-designed study, that limits respondent bias and has generated evidence that is robust (think representative sample sizes) and reliable (think from credible sources). ONLY once you have this foundation, can you begin to think about doing anything with the evidence.
2. Believable insights that can stand up to scrutiny
Is it a 'Dilbert stat'? i.e. does it sound made up? How does this compare to usual evidence from this respondent base or in this field of study? Can anomalies be supported? Is it accurate? Only once you've performed your checks and balances to ensure that the evidence is believable and can stand up to the scrutiny of the decision-making audience can you move forward.
3. Does the insight serve a purpose?
Which particular business outcome was being considered when the research was performed? How does this evidence contribute towards the understanding of that outcome and steps that should be now taken towards delivering it? The role of evidence is to validate a plan or to make you think or plan differently as a result. Evidence shouldn't be without purpose.
4. What story does the insight form part of?
'Storytelling' is often talked about as a method for sharing insights and evidence. I'm a big fan of this approach as it doesn't present evidence in isolation and takes the audience on a journey of understanding. There is a beginning, middle and end. A good story is well presented to the audience (i.e. shows values rather than leaving them to guess), it is understandable and digestible. It doesn't have to be a long story or report - even a 2-minute video can do the trick - and the method will put the evidence in context.
5. Is the evidence Impartial?
A critical reason that businesses spend £4.8 Billion on research in the UK each year - is that they require expert and impartial evidence to underpin their decisions. Is the evidence any less Robust or Believable if produced by internal teams? I don't think so - but impartiality adds an extra layer of comfort.
Do you have any other tips that we've missed?
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