I am a detective.
Before becoming a product and UX researcher leader, I was a detective in a large metropolitan area. I have solved everything from child abuse cases, to robberies, to homicides.
I now use the skills I developed to solve business mysteries.
If you are a researcher, you are a detective.
There are parallels between good research and good detective work.
- Both seek to establish the truth through a trail of evidence with the aim to arrive at a solution.
- Both are potentially high-stakes.
- Both operate in a world of uncertainty and must revise existing predictions or theories given new or additional evidence.
Using probabilistic thinking, a researcher’s or detective’s job is to understand the what and why.
It’s not just about observing what a person does; it’s trying to understand the reasons behind it. — Dan Ariely
To think like a detective, you must have an ‘investigative mindset’.
Having an investigative mindset is as basic as ABC.
- Assume nothing. Detectives believe all stories are possible, until they are not. They follow the trail of evidence.
- Believe nothing. Detectives are skeptical. We are always looking for ways to disprove a hypothesis through evidence.
- Challenge and check everything. Detectives repeatedly ask the questions ‘What do I know?’ and ‘What do I not know?’ Detectives recognize that correlation does not imply causation. They know the safest way to test any hypothesis is to try to disprove it.
“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” — Sherlock Holmes in Scandal in Bohemia
As a product, UX, or market researcher, you are a detective.