Research Without Regret – Creating Insights that Get Action


This is the first of a three-part series on avoiding research regret and delivering results that stakeholders act on.

Get our FREE ebook, Research Without Regret, download it here.


While insights professionals increasingly have access to the executive leadership table, the ability to spark business partners to make decisions and take action on the insights they provide is still a struggle. Every researcher experiences post research regret based on their inability to inspire action at some time. No matter how well you think the project went, in the end the users didn’t get the research results they expected or would use. And you’re left wondering why.

To avoid post research regret, you’ve got to understand what it is, why it happens, and the actions you can take to prevent it. In this series you will earn how to identify different types of research regret, the root causes of research regret, and discover proven techniques to research without regrets.

Research Regret Wastes Resources

Quirk’s recent corporate research report found that the biggest pain points for managing and conducting research were:

  • too many projects for the budget
  • too many projects for the staff

Sense a theme? Resources are scarce. When resources are scarce, it is critical you maximize their value. According to ESOMAR 2016, the global spend on research was almost $80 billion dollars. Yet the Quirks report showed that almost 85% of researchers aren’t able to get action based on research insights at least some of the time. In fact, half say this is often a challenge.

Half of all researchers say getting action on insights is often a challenge


Research Regret Shakes Confidence

Additionally, projects that fail to deliver actionable results lead business partners to lack confidence in marketing research.

Couple this with the challenges of demonstrating ROI and it’s no wonder research gets a bad rap in business press.  Forbes has articles like “Why So Much Market Research Sucks” and Harvard Business Review tells the C-level that “Real Leaders Don’t Do Focus Groups”. But what these business writers are really saying is “don’t waste money on bad research or research you regret”. We agree.

Jason’s Research Regret

Jason is having a hard time getting to sleep.  He lies in bed, staring at the ceiling and reflects on his day. It was tough. And as he contemplates the texture of the plaster above his head, he wonders how he could have avoided the situation and what had he done wrong.

Every project that ends in regret wastes time, money and human resources

He thought he had a big success.  After all, consumers really liked several of their new proposed ice cream flavors. Except, the meeting had spiraled out of control pretty quickly. He had faced a barrage of questions. Why weren’t competitive flavors part of the study? Why didn’t the chocolate latte macchiato flavor do better?  Was he sure the right people were in the study? It just didn’t end.

Does Jason’s experience sound familiar?  Every researcher has had this experience. Just like Jason, you end up with post research regret and wonder where it all went wrong.

Get your free ‘Research Without Regrets’ ebook – download it now! An easy-to-read guide that identifies stakeholder post-research regrets, their root causes, and tips for achieving regret free research successes.  

Expressions of Research Regret

Research regret is most commonly expressed in four ways.

Missing information

In our case example, Jason was challenged on the decision to exclude competitive flavors from the study. Upon reflection, Jason realized that they had received the list of flavors to include from the R&D department and the list of flavors had been approved by his brand team contact. However, he did not vet the flavor set with the channel group. No wonder he was caught off guard when they asked questions at the report stage. At that point it was a little too late! So, Jason’s team was missing vital information.

Told Us What We Already Know

This wasn’t a situation that Jason faced, but in some cases researchers might hear that the research “told us what we already knew.”

In some cases, research that confirms internal beliefs can be very useful. Those beliefs turn into facts, which is particularly important when investments against those facts are being made.

In other cases, however, this might point to situations where the results did not reflect the types of learnings that a decision-maker needs.

Wrong Conclusion

Jason was happy to report that several flavors in the test had done very well. But instead of the news of the winning flavors being met with enthusiasm, the team didn’t believe the conclusion that chocolate latte macchiato was not among them.

Unfortunately, Jason didn’t know this flavor had been awarded “new flavor of the year” by experts at an industry food event. Executives were sure they had a winner. No wonder they were surprised at the results.

The Quirk’s report also revealed that half of all researchers are faced with the challenge of not delivering expected results at least some of the time. Learnings not aligning with expected results is typically a problem only if the news is bad. Usually no one minds when the results are better than expected. That’s good news. Everyone hates bad news, but that’s why you do research in the first place.  Bad news is good news. The sooner a company knows it is on the wrong path, the smaller the sunk cost.

Wrong Process

The first three expressions of regret are based on the outcome of the research.  The fourth expression is based on the process and if heard, typically follow the “wrong conclusion” expression.

Jason was asked if the right people were in the study. Why? Because the results were unexpected, decision makers start to ask about the process; in essence questioning the validity of the research. Partner regret is particularly troubling if it erodes trust in the ability of a marketing researcher to do their job.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Their reaction put Jason in a defensive position and tonight he’s starting to question the process too. How could he and his team could have been clearer and collaborated better with the decision-making team?  Before he tries to solve the problem, Jason’s now ready to consider the root causes of this situation.

Ready to get to the root causes of research regret? Stay tuned to read our next blog.

Download the free ‘Research Without Regrets’ ebook!  An easy-to-read guide that identifies stakeholder post-research regrets, their root causes, and tips for achieving regret-free research successes.

Comments are closed.