While research projects are common teambuilding activities in post-graduate education, they are also common in working environments and part of professional life. For those working in the non-profit industry, research institutes, philanthropic organizations or government bodies, research projects are common. They might vary in size and scope, and depending on who or what or how you are working on a project, they will also vary in terms of quantitative or qualitative data to be collected.
As such, all research projects are incredibly different, but one commonality emerges across the spectrum—you have to start with a shared goal of what you are trying to accomplish, and work systematically as you move from abstract, to process, to conclusion.
While it might seem like a straight shot, it’s not. Research projects mainly get interrupted because different team members have different core beliefs for how things should get done, as well as different working styles, and different professional backgrounds that shape how they approach problems and problem solving in general
Let's take a look at a few examples to see when to hit the brakes during such a process, and why:
1. When there is a misconception from one or more team members
During a research project in 2019 dealing with agricultural yields and new technologies that could support farmer equity, team members at a non-profit in Denver were asked to contribute an editorial to understand the relationship between entrepreneurship in technology, that is how new green technology could support better farmer yields, and then forecast this process through modeling and data sets.
The research project required a conceptual understanding of technology and moreover how VC funds worked in supporting non-profits but also included an element of climate science. For this project, both team members had an excellent knowledge of financials, venture capital funding, and the work of mission-driven organizations, but also both had barely any knowledge about climate systems.
The misconception occurred when researchers were asked to understand how to forecast something when they didn’t know the correct inputs—climate variability.
Making sure team members know all the aspects of a research assignment is key for deliverables. In this case, it took being humble and asking other experts at neighboring organizations for their advice when it came to climate science and seasonal shocks to agriculture.
2. When team members are hesitant to present
Whenever there is a public speaking event with prominent speakers and leaders at the talk, we always seem to expect their academic and research accomplishments to shine. But we seldom realize that sometimes panelists are not ready to talk, or present or they are better at writing and not the best when it comes to public speaking. When working on a research project with one or more team members, it’s a good idea to practice public speaking and get used to potential audience members. Researchers also need to be aware of the Q&A section of their presentation, when audience members tend to ask questions and play devils advocate with the speakers to gauge their knowledge on a subject area.
3. When you need more time to crunch data
Research projects in professional environments are often time-sensitive. Even though research could technically go on forever in academia, organizations are still constrained by profit motives and competition and need to set limits and agendas for the start and stopping points to a project.
This creates a sense of pressure and can sometimes lead to groupthink amongst team members, which might create a false sense of urgency to finish the project without having all of the right data, or perhaps without consulting various individuals on the sources needed in a project. This is due to logistical errors, sometimes, such as not being able to reach someone in another time zone or able to consult a professional because they are unavailable. Sometimes group members also realize they needed key information after a project is submitted, which chalks up to the human error and is resultant in the above-mentioned pressure to finish.
In any case, one of the keys to working on quantitative assessments is to realize early on that the data is key to having a sound conclusion or answer to your hypothesis. Realizing the weight of your research questions depends on key data points that will drive researchers to find the most accurate, and up-to-date information.