Let's Take A Closer Look

Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986.

We cannot say how much research costs any more than we can say how much a car costs until we’ve asked and answered lots of important questions. Do we want a new car or a used car? Two, three, four, or five doors? Will our car be the bare bones version or the one with the all the bells and whistles?  

A good place to start is by asking ourselves how we want to use this car. Tiny cars are okay for running errands in the neighborhood, convertibles are popular choices of tourists all over Florida, and stretch limos are the hands down favorites of promgoers everywhere. But if we are going to use it to tow a heavy trailer, we need a vehicle built for that purpose, perhaps not even a car at all. If we don’t give it much thought, we’ll be like Chief Brody, in shock, muttering to Captain Quint, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” How much space do we need? Will we be carrying people, things, or both? How about performance, reliability, economy, comfort, and more? Our best choice depends on so many things.

Most people do not know the corresponding sorts of questions they should be asking when they buy research from contractors. Do you?

This is one of the things I help research buyers with in my two-day workshops. Goldilocks style, we do the equivalent of sorting bowls of porridge into too hot, too cold, or just right. Later, we look more closely at each, but for openers we don’t want to get bogged down with taking the exact temperature of every bowl we come across or waste time arguing over whether to use Fahrenheit or Celsius scales.

We can apply the same principle to planning a kitchen remodeling. Broadly speaking, do we want the materials, craftsmanship, performance, and reliability of multipurpose range/stovetop/ovens made by folks like Wolf, Miele, and Thor? Or are we okay with GE, Whirlpool, or LG? Do we realize if our budget is absurdly low, we’ll end up with a hotplate plugged into a naked bulb hanging from the ceiling? What levels of performance and quality are we establishing for our refrigerator, freezer, microwave, blender, toaster? Will we get a dishwasher or wash everything by hand? Will we get a trash compactor or jump up and down until the garbage bag bursts? What about marble or tile or Formica floors and countertops? Do we want incandescent, LED, or fluorescent lighting? Recessed, track, or pendant? On and on we go until we’ve broadly determined all the things we must take into consideration when we’re paying for a new kitchen. Geez, do good cabinets really cost that much?

Here’s the problem – when you buy research, you don’t know anywhere near as much about it as you do about buying a car or remodeling a kitchen, what it involves, or how your decisions will affect your results. Your lack of detailed knowledge leaves you vulnerable to shysters and opportunists (the research contractor equivalent of ambulance chasers and bottom feeders) unless you learn how to protect yourself. I advise research buyers to never specify a dollar amount, no matter how much research contractors pester you for one. When you give research contractors a budget, they will spend it for you, whether it is too much or too little.

When it comes to having trust and confidence in the research contractors are selling, we need to look no farther than the houses built by each of the Three Little Pigs

  • A third of all studies conducted by research contractors are made of Straw, the cheapest, fastest, and easiest to build version. All the information you paid for is bad, so Straws research is worse than none at all.
  • Another third are made of Sticks. Buyers of Sticks research get as much bad information as good. Do you know when you can’t trust all of it, you can’t trust any of it?
  • Only one study in three is made of Bricks. The materials are strong and the construction processes are rigorous. Bricks research does the right things for the right reasons.

<Note to the top brass: Two out of three research buyers are wasting the organization’s money on Straws and Sticks solutions that can’t pass a simple Huff and Puff Test.>

Back when Sears was a force in big store retail and catalog sales, they described their product offerings as Good, Better, and Best.

Customers were able to chose the levels of quality and performance that met their needs and adhered to their standards for materials and craftsmanship. I advise clients to identify their information needs and ask research contractors to provide Good, Better, and Best versions in their proposals and say what each plan costs. This puts the responsibility for recommending methods, samples, scales, statistics, and all the rest where it belongs. Because research is always a series of compromises, clients who fully understand the tradeoffs they are making between scope, scale, and expense get more value for their money than those who remain at the mercy of predators and charlatans.

It took me years to learn how to write effective calls for proposals (RFPs to some). It took me just as long to learn how to evaluate the proposals research contractors submitted in response. Sometimes my learning came in small steps and some times in giant strides, which is how it happens when we commit to constant improvement. You don’t have to write CFPs/RFPs on your own because I will help you. I’ll also help you treat your research planning as a separate activity that precedes conducting the research itself. Take a look at https://www.davidallanvan.com.

I don’t sell your information to anyone. I don’t share it with anyone, either.

Take a Closer Look, Volume 2, is free to Kindle Unlimited customers. The best way to protect yourself against the manipulations, distortions and fabrications that are more and more prevalent these days is to learn how to see through them.

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