My Illicit Love Affair With Research
This is hard for me to confess, but they say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
I have a problem with wanting to know.
Some laud it as curiosity, but I believe it’s something much more.
It’s a thinly veiled obsession.
When I’m doing it, I get a rush. It thrills me.
You know that period when you’re getting to know someone and can talk to them for hours on end?
Everything you discover is another piece of the puzzle. It helps you form a better more informed opinion of them. It allows you to become comfortable.
I deal in information. It’s my livelihood. If I’m not informed then there’s no reason for people to read what I write or listen to what I say.
There’s no reason for people to buy my products and services.
Without a constant flow of information, I cannot serve my customers and clients to the best of my ability. If I can’t serve them then they won’t feel comfortable paying me. If they’re not comfortable then they’ll drop me as a service provider.
I like my income.
I like what I do.
The Case for Research
Think of research as the skeleton of your work. It’s where all the other pieces are attached and makes sure your projects have substance.
When we’re launching marketing campaigns, we have to research many different aspects. We need to research the platforms, the people, the industry and so on. If any of our research is flawed them our campaigns will be flawed and our results will be subpar.
Even with creative work, research is a must.
IF you’re writing a book about a killer in Detroit and you’ve never been to Detroit, you’ll have to research the city. You need to know what the people are like, the good parts of town, the bad parts of town, and how the police behave.
Music, art, photography, etc.
These are pursuits people think are spontaneous and fueled by an inner intuition – they are. That notwithstanding, a lot of research goes into it.
For example, a painter can make something fresh and new, but I can almost guarantee you she was influenced by the people who came before her. Creating irreverent art for the sake of it doesn’t advance the field.
To advance any profession, especially creative ones, the most profound action is to build on the work which came before you.
If you’re realist, look at what’s been done in the past and force yourself to see it from a different angle.
If you’re an abstract painter, look at what’s been put out in the world and use it as a stepping stone.
The same thing goes for sculptors, writers, musicians, etc. Your goal isn’t to tear down what’s come before, but to dive deep and understand why those works were so sublime.
Research Takes Different Forms
I’m not advocating you open a textbook or history book to find your answers. Research takes so many forms. That’s part of the reason why it’s so much fun.
Research can be you talking to people who’ve lived in a certain neighborhood for 30 years. Research can be you talking to the protestors in Tiananmen Square during the time of political turmoil. It can be you sitting outside and observing the mating habits of flamingos.
The more variety you introduce to your research methods, the better your final body of work will be.
I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s because you’ll allow yourself to become fully involved. You’ll yearn for more information and ways to tie up dangling threads in your understanding.
The Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis states language affects your world view and cognition. The same can be said about research. The more conversant you are on a topic, the more it affects the way you view it.
Sometimes, when you’re lucky, you can get all the research you need from Google. I’ve been traveling a lot lately so I’ve been turning to the Big G a lot, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up the phone and calling real humans.
Research, when used correctly and consistently keeps you on the frontier.
Research makes sure you remain a leader in your field.
Research allows you to fall deeper in love with your subject matter.
Research allows you to present your arguments, ideas, and plans with confidence.
Research is the backbone of all great work.
Research is the reason any idea, business, a piece of music, art, or body of work failed to achieve the desired effect.
It begins and ends with the amount of preparation and thought you give it.
That’s why I have and will continue to have an illicit affair with research.