What are good questions to ask about new research?
That was the question I had as I revisited Keeping Up With the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding + Using Analytics.
Written by Tom Davenport and Jinho Kim, this is a book I read a few years ago when I led our company’s employee engagement survey strategy.
Working closely with our partner, Towers Watson, I was learning a lot. Yet I wanted to better understand the underlying analytics.
It includes a great list of questions that leaders should ask about analytics projects. They’re summarized from marketing and strategy professor Liam Fahey‘s article in Strategy and Leadership.
Here they are:
- What business issue or need is the analytics work intended to inform? (This reminds me of the McKinsey & Company question, what problem are we solving for?)
- What are the core insights relevant to understanding the business issue and its context?
- How can I leverage these insights in the work I do?
- How do the insights affect decisions confronting us now?
- How do the insights help shape emerging and future decisions?
Questions for preliminary findings:
- What is surprising about this finding?
- Can further analysis be done to strengthen or refute the finding?
- Should others be involved to challenge this emerging finding?
- Is there a significant insight emerging here?
- If the thinking holds up, how should it affect my thinking on this or other topics or issues?
Questions for new insights:
- What is new to each insight?
- What was the old understanding?
- How significant is the difference?
- What is the reasoning or “argument” that connects the data set to the insight?
Questions after insights have been delivered:
- Who was/is involved in shaping the new understanding?
- How might they have influenced the outcome?
- What might be the principal difference across individuals or units?
In our ever busier and faster world, I also ask myself what the one key takeaway and implication is from the research. How would I summarize the insights in a sentence or a tweet?
In addition, I ask myself if I truly understand the work. If not, it’s time for more questions.
After seeing the movie The Big Short this weekend about the 2008-09 financial crisis, I wish more people had asked a lot more questions.