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I’ve done my research, now what?

October 30, 2019

Something is missing from the lives of many of the people I talk to and I can assure you that something isn’t research.

The internet is a fantastic tool that brings a wide range of information to your eye balls in just a few short clicks and keyboard strokes.  The internet satisfies an evolutionary urge some of us have to collect and ‘own’ useful stuff, to keep our cupboard stocked full (in case of emergencies).  We scroll, click, download and save the mass of interesting data we find and store it into our own private files. As we do this our confidence in our own ability to know stuff grows and we feel empowered, knowledgable and qualified.

But are we just blowing smoke up our own arses here or what?

I’m not sure when or how the word ‘research’ got divorced from its life partner ‘development’ but it does seem to have happened.  I assume it has something to do with what I’ve said above about research being an easy box to tick now but I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that this divorce has left both partners as only shadows of their former selves.

If research helps to inform your idea about a thing, development helps you test, refine and construct it.

Without development your research just informs your idea in a theoretical way but doesn’t actually turn it into anything.

It might be a bit hard to imagine this in a scientific setting so let’s turn to my next favourite laboratory, parenthood (or the mentoring of young people who you have some responsibility of care over).

Anyone who has been there has read a parenting or coaching book or website and learned the theory.

As a new mother to my first baby I had ZERO idea of what I was doing. There was no ‘mothers intuition’ I just thought ‘oh shit, this little thing hates everything I do to her, I seem to be winding her up so I’ll just give her to her dad’ and that’s how I handled it – delegation.

Ok, that’s a bit harsh. I was very sure that I loved this little thing and wanted to know how to help her so I took to reading a few books to get some tips. I did this while my husband got on with doing the thing of raising the baby.

Long story short, my research paid off in my head and I now had a plan, I had what I felt was a great understanding of what my grizzly baby could be wanting each time (nappy, food, water, connection or release from over-stimulation) and now, each time she grizzled I went through the list like some sleep deprived robot mum.  Needless to say nothing worked as well for me as it did for my non-researching hubby.

The shit hit the fan one day when I was left alone with my Bub and just couldn’t get her to settle.  Hearing the distress next door, my neighbour popped in to help. She was one of the worlds ‘super mothers’ with four kids of her own (I think, it was a while ago) and a tribe of about 6-10 kids that she minded every day.  Anyway, she gave me the best advice ever when she told me to put the books down and come around to her house with the baby and have a cup of tea.  That’s what I did.

Development at tea time.

That cup of tea taught me more about motherhood than the five books I’d been pouring over ever did. This uber mother told me to just relax, that all babies were different, that everything will work out in the end and that once I find my natural flow she’ll find hers (no pressure hey…).  It was sometime between my first cup of tea and my third (plus a handful of biscuits) that I realised that what she was saying is what my husband had been doing all along.  Paying attention and going with the flow.

Shit.

Again, long story short I never did feel like the ‘mother’ my husband was when my kids were little and couldn’t talk but I did start to feel comfortable and was more than happy to be the ‘daddy’ if that makes sense.  What I learned in that very vulnerable moment of my life was what I’m talking about here as a mother (of two children who have securely bonded to me and me to them and who are now young women) and as a scientist who does both ‘research’ and ‘development’.

All the research in the world won’t prepare you for reality, only development will do that.

and yes, sometimes the person who does the development work first is often better informed than the person that spends too long researching.

So what does that mean for a cosmetic brand?

It means you have to do both.

It means that when you talk to me about ‘doing your research’ I’m going to ask you about how you have or plan to develop that into a product, brand, business or plan.  At this point I feel it is important to note that you may not be in a position practically to do all of your own research OR development (especially development as a lab might be a requirement) but what you should be able to do is start to build up a conception of what you might need to do to develop that idea and apply that research.

It’s a circle.

R&D or Research and Development is written like that because the two are done together.

You research an idea a bit as this helps you to flesh it out and plan for some real action.  You then test that research with some development work either by going into the lab or kitchen and giving something a go or by gathering your own data. This is worth exploring more as it is at this point that we go from secondary to primary data collection.

Let’s explore this by using that good-old-fashioned teachers-favourite tool, Bloom’s Taxonomy:

 

 

So this wheel gives us some language to describe what types of things we are doing when we work through an idea (start our research).

There are 6 levels in this chart which move us all the way from a very rudimental idea about something to the point where we can critically evaluate and analyse a situation or problem.  Think of the chart as moving you from a low grade D (scraping a pass) at level 1 through to a very high A (level 6). With that in mind, level 4 is where we are really wanting to get to in order for our R&D activities to start turning into financial opportunities for our market.

Reading through that chart you notice the first stages could easily be quite theoretical.  Level one is about selecting questions to investigate (building knowledge), level two is about interpreting and summarising (comprehending) the data you find via your research while level three is about applying the information you have found  to your problem, question or scenario.  A high achiever at level three will start to do their own PRIMARY investigations as they test out their research in a way that creates PRIMARY data.

Primary data = data that you create (not just interpret or curate) so this could be a survey, lab work, field trip or project.

Secondary data = data that you source from others.

 

Levels three and four are where most good, non-scientists or non-consultant scientists can get to with their general ideas after carrying out a mixture of research and development activities to create and analyse primary and secondary data in an applied way.

Levels five and six require a deeper understanding of the science behind the subject (if we are talking about cosmetic chemistry) and seek to build on that initial R&D work to probe, create and expand knowledge thus creating a more polished and optimised solution.  This is typically what I do during my laboratory sessions and what I always do with my formulating work.

Don’t forget the circle.

The research and development process doesn’t always (or only) go in one way. Some ideas turn out to be rubbish while others need to be refined and further developed.  It is common to start off with what you feel is one problem or question and then have it turn into a number of little questions, each of which may need a closer look in order to create the best chance of success and truly develop both your theoretical knowledge and your applied solution.

The moral of this story is…

Don’t just pride yourself on doing your research because research without development is not smart.

Oh and remember, you don’t have to do it all, you just have to know that there’s stuff that needs to be done and then find a place, person or way to make that happen.

Happy R&D’ing.

Amanda x

 

 

 

 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2019 9:53 am

    Oh God this is such a good post and on every level! I can’t express all the lightbulb moments that went off throughout my reading of this (because it would be such a long comment) but well down on drawing those exact lines between research and development 👏👏

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      October 30, 2019 9:57 am

      Thanks for that comment and I’m glad it sparked something within you. Don’t forget that I’m more than happy to work with people to explore their ideas and create R&D plans. The fist step is realising that there is more to it than just reading, the second step is becoming comfortable with the ‘how’ and then it is all about giving it a go.

  2. October 30, 2019 6:33 pm

    All common to us who are scientists, but for others, not so obvious. Therefore a useful post. Interesting to see Blooms Taxonomy. Gone out of fashion, but personally I think it is a great tool, and I refer to it often.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      October 30, 2019 6:38 pm

      We are still heavily reliant on it in educational circles Mike. I am currently being taught how to incorporate it into my marking rubrics for 7-12 high school science. I quite like how it words expectations 🙂

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