Why projects fail if they neglect research

Erika Hall’s The Secret Cost of Research is a great explanation of why research is essential for products to succeed:

The reason design projects that neglect research fail isn’t because of a lack of knowledge. It’s because of a lack of shared knowledge. Creating something of any complexity generally requires several different people with different backgrounds and different priorities to collaborate on a goal. If you don’t go through an initial research process with your team, if you just get down to designing without examining your assumptions, you may think your individual views line up much more than they do. Poorly distributed knowledge is barely more useful than no knowledge at all.

I can definitely attest to this. It’s exactly why I’m such a big fan of Product Discovery:

This phase always—without fail—produces insights the team finds incredibly valuable. Startups gain clarity about what to say “yes” and “no” to in their product, and large corporations learn how to go beyond customer-centricity buzzwords and discover which benefits they should be selling to their users. As just one of many examples, I was once in a workshop that revealed the executives had a completely different vision for the company than the designers and developers. It was an awkward two hours, but in the end they agreed on the tough but correct decision to suspend their e-commerce plans until some of the content areas on the site had been sorted out. It’s great to see a statement of purpose emerge from these sessions—one that finally gets an organization to agree on what the product’s focus should be.

It’s pretty remarkable how different people’s visions for a product can be, especially since there’s such a simple two-step program to fix that:

  1. Understand user needs and business goals.
  2. Talk about it, together.