What is Lean Research?
Lean Research is an expanding framework to conduct field research, which focuses its efforts on the positive experience for the participants and the high-quality/ accuracy of the data collected for the researcher.
According to the MIT D-Lab
"Lean research is a rigorous, respectful, relevant, and right-sized alternative that places the experience of research participants and other stakeholders at the center of the design and implementation of the study."
Why should we consider Lean Research for our research studies?
Conducting research into diverse fields and approaching participants with diverse backgrounds, can be challenging for the participants and the interviewer as well. Cultural, economic, intellectual and/ or other differences between the researcher and the participant, can have a bad influence on the interview process - if not handled properly,.
As you can imagine, the mental state and positive attitude of the participants is essential for the successful completion of any research study, as it influences the quality and accuracy of information the participants are willing to share with the researcher.
For example, not enjoying the interview experience can lead the participants to rush through the process into more important or exciting activities of their own schedule and the researcher to miss important insights, data, and information. Or feeling uncomfortable can intrigue the participant to share false and/ or inaccurate insights and information out of fear being judged or not being liked.
Both situations may have a great impact on the validity of the collected insights, data, and information, and influence the accuracy of the end-results of our study.
Acknowledging the diverse dynamics evolved between the researcher and the research participants as well as their importance and potential influence on the study results, the Lean Research framework seeks to shape a better, positive, respectful and enjoyable experience for the research participants, and at the same time help us, the researchers, improve the accuracy and quality of the information we collect, in order to conduct impactful studies of high standards and quality.
The Lean Research principles
How to implement Lean Research framework to our studies?
To implement the Lean Research framework to our study and enhance the experience of our participants, the quality and accuracy of our findings and the impact of our contribution to the project/ study we are working on, we should follow the four interrelated principles of the Lean Research framework:
A rigorous research study according to the Lean Research framework is a research, which:
- follows the best practices and high standards of quality and accuracy as defined by the field of study.
- ensures the integrity of the end-to-end research process.
- ensures the validity and accuracy of the research findings.
- considers the usability of the data and findings, which are collected in order to be understandable, usable and without errors as much as possible.
Why is being rigorous important?
Being rigorous ensures high-quality, accurate findings and a positive experience for all stakeholders, and parties involved.
A relevant research study according to the Lean Research framework is a research, which:
- the study and our research is relevant to the objectives of our initiative.
- the research is valuable and meaningful to a wide range of people — stakeholders.
- the research addresses valuable questions, concerns, and insights to inform important decisions and actions at various levels of authority.
- our collected data and findings can be shared with a wide range of audience and are transmittedinto a non-technical language in order to be understandable.
Why is being relevant important?
Conducting relevant research is highly important for the researcher as well as the participants and stakeholders, as it is designed to inform decision-making and actions at various levels of authority and it addresses meaningful questions that matter to a wider audience, than the researcher per-se.
We should concentrate our efforts to plan a research study that:
- is respectful towards participants time, expertise, knowledge, and information that they’re sharing with us.
- prioritizes the dignity of the participants and makes them feel valued, heard, and satisfied with their overall interview experience.
- honors the participant’s right to be thoroughly informed about the purpose of our research, and the potential usage of our findings.
- honors the participant’s right to opt-out if they don’t want to participate, either from the beginning or at any time during the interview-process.
Why is being respectful important?
Except the simple fact that respect is important in any form of interaction and communication between people, conducting a research study that is respectful, is essential in the Lean Research framework to ensure a satisfying interview experience and a positive state of mind for the participants, as well as high-quality, valid and accurate findings for the researcher.
By right-sized research study, we mean that:
- the time, budget, effort, and inconvenience for people involved in the study are roughly proportionate to the importance, relevance, and potential impact of that study.
To ensure that, we need to adjust our efforts and resources according to:
- the research objectives
- the priority of the research to stakeholders
- the potential impact of the research
Why is being right-sized important?
The time, budget, effort, and inconvenience for people involved in the study need to be roughly proportionate to the importance, relevance, and potential impact of that study in order for our research to be efficient.
Designing our study to follow these four principles - the 4-R’s - and following the Lean Research framework, we can enhance the experience of our participants, the quality and accuracy of our findings and the impact of our contribution to the project/ study we are working on. From our experience, it’s definitely worth the effort.
What do you think, would you try Lean Research?
Fellow Lean Research practitioner?
As Lean Research practitioners and advocates we believe and follow the Lean Research principles, throughout our studies and research. We try to share our knowledge & experience with our network and collect insights from fellow practitioners about their experiences with this framework. If you are a fellow practitioner, and are interested in a collaborative exchange or catch-up, please, drop us a line, we are looking forward meeting you!
Interested in the Lean Research Framework?
If you are interested to learn more about Lean Research and/ or how you could implement the framework in your own studies a great starting point to dive into more details regarding the Lean Research framework, principles, question framing etc. is the MIT D-Lab online, alternatively we highly recommend the MIT D-Lab guide The Lean Research Framework: Principles for Human-Centered Field Research