Market Research | The Brainzooming Group - Part 11 – page 11
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Here’s the second installment of one of my favorite posts – the Rules of Can’t Be Right. This edition is focused on written reports. Here are some important checks you can use to spot potential errors:

  • Ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” If you didn’t know what it was saying beforehand, could you really tell someone what your point is?
  • Look at written prose in a different font or format than you originally used to write it. Doing this freshens your eyes to spot mistakes in something that you’ve spent quite a bit of time working on. (It’s amazing how frequently I’ll miss a mistake while writing this blog that becomes readily apparent when it’s published in Blogger with a different look.)
  • When you have a bulleted list, check to see if the beginning words are of the same type (i.e., all verbs, all of the same tense, etc.) and if each line ends in the same way (period, no period).
  • Run the spelling and grammar checkers. Yes, it’s completely basic, but that doesn’t mean people always do it.
  • Print it and read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised to find how fractured something that looks right can sound when you’re speaking it.
  • Have someone else take a look at it. That’s another way to get a fresh set of eyes as a double check. If the person is unfamiliar with the topic, all the better since they won’t subconsciously fix problems that more experienced people might.
  • Ask yourself, “What knowledge am I assuming that the reader has on this topic?” Figure out how you can eliminate the need for the assumption to be necessary by providing the background to understand your material.

Please leave comments with tips you use to double check work and look for mistakes. We’ll run them in a future installment of the rules of CBR.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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There have been several posts focusing on collecting and asking great questions. Here’s an opportunity to get a perspective from someone else on the importance of questions to innovation and the use of QuestionBanks, strategic lists of questions designed to stimulate strategic thinking. The manifesto is by Corinne Miller from InnovatingResults! It’s well worth the time to download.

When you’re checking out the “Questionating” manifesto, it’s also a great time to poke around on Change This, a website featuring manifestos on a variety of topics, many of them tied to innovation and strategy. And while you’re there, vote on proposed manifestos that others would like to submit or really try to change something by proposing a manifesto of your own!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I gave up using a red pen while reviewing work several years ago because someone in our department said she felt as if she were being graded in school. Regardless of your pen color though, a critical part of performing & reviewing analysis is the ability to quickly spot mistakes. It helps to have a sixth sense regarding CBR—items that obviously “Can’t Be Right.” In case you don’t have that special power, here are rules you can use to help spot mistakes – whether they’re yours or someone else’s:

  • Before you work on or review analysis, think about what the answer should or will likely be. If the results aren’t in the ballpark, and there’s no apparent reason, do some digging.
  • When reviewing work, start with a “skeptical” attitude – the expectation that something’s wrong – and look specifically for mistakes.
  • Assume things typically won’t change dramatically (or at least outside a typical range). If changes look like big deviations from the norm, investigate why.
  • Try to “break” things—when testing a spreadsheet or program or reading a document, look for ways to make it not work or look for passages that don’t make sense.
  • With a spreadsheet, do the unexpected—put in numbers that you wouldn’t normally expect (i.e., a negative number where it should be positive, change the order of magnitude of important numbers, etc.). As a double check, if a spreadsheet uses lots of formulas, dramatically change some numbers that should make the results change.
  • Do things or read sections out of the natural sequence. This often makes irregularities more recognizable.
  • When reading, repeatedly ask the questions, “Why would I know that? Does it tell me that somewhere else in the document? Is the point consistent within the document?” Be skeptical when you think you have satisfactorily answered these questions.

While it might feel a little better to not use a red pen while marking up analysis, it feels tremendously better to catch a mistake before your boss or client does. Use these rules to help increase that likelihood. And if you have rules that you use successfully, let me know, and we’ll put them in a follow-up post.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Too many research reports are a jumble of charts, arrows, and statements that simply play back what’s on the graphic (or worse, just regurgitate a chart’s methodology). For senior executives, that translates into a confusing (and at best, boring) jumble of information – pointing in all kinds of directions without really telling them anything.

If you have research responsibility, apply this maxim for great strategic thinking from Gary Singer, a wonderful strategist and the Chief Strategy Officer at Interbrand. His comment to me was:

  • Good researchers go to the edge of the data and step back – to be cautious & statistically sound.
  • Good consultants go to the edge of the data and stop – to be sure they’re on solid footing & that the client will buy off.
  • Great strategic thinkers go to the edge of the data, formulate a sound next set of assumptions that the audience can comment on & agree to, and then keep going to expand understanding & get to revealing insights.

It’s a simple statement and hard to do, but done successfully, it promises incredible business results. Use it as your new strategic hurdle to clear!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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