Enabling Democratic Decision-Making: 5 Guardrails for Research

If all the talk about the democratization of data is sending you off the rails, there are things you can do to protect yourself — and your research. The name of the game is guardrails, and they are what will keep you and your data safe, sane and meaningful. This is where you, as the research expert, can shine: in setting up the parameters through which your team nimbly develops reliable, meaningful, actionable data without drama.

If you haven't thought about guardrails lately, here are five to put in place to protect your data democracy:

Guardrail 1: Set clear objectives first.

What are you trying to accomplish? What decision are you trying to make, and how do your questions tie to it? Be focused on a tightly knit objective from the get-go, and set parameters that reign in the scope of the questionnaire. This is not about doing one massive study that takes months. This is about tackling one specific, discreet topic. It’s about making a decision, moving on, tackling the next one, the next one, the next one, and hopefully, learning from each one throughout the process.

Guardrail 2: Find the right people from the right sources.

Define your target audience, then find the right people from the right places. These are not the people sitting across from you in Starbucks (unless maybe you are doing research for Starbucks). When you’re dealing with online research, it’s important to connect with multiple providers to create a network of panels, as well as the right screening questions. This all ensures your sample is representative of and savvy to what you need.

Guardrail 3: Ask the right questions.

You need the right question structure, the right scale, the right questions, the right time. Use best practices to design a very focused questionnaire: fewer than 10 questions that are as short as possible, with no more than two that are open-ended. Beyond the number and length of your questions, if you want reliable data, ensure you have unbiased, non-leading queries. 

Guardrail 4: Make sure your data is clean and reliable.

If your data isn’t reliable, it isn’t worth much. Root out liars and robots. Sometimes, people just won’t pay enough attention to the survey (this is easier to spot with the open-ended questions). There needs to be some level of quality checking to make the data reliable. If you are conducting research in-house, you need to set up processes for ensuring the data is clean. If you’re using an outside platform, double-check that it has built-in reliability tools and, even better, a built-in data-cleaning process.

Guardrail 5: Provide tools to interpret data correctly.

Give those who are managing the research project a set of tools or ways to understand their findings. This is an educational guardrail that lets you assert some of the control we researchers crave. Provide a way to visualize the data. This connects back to Guardrail 1: If you know the purpose for which the data is meant and how it ladders to a decision, they’ll be less likely to make dangerous assumptions or over-extrapolate.

Democratizing the conducting of research doesn’t have to be dangerous or scary. Just set everyone up for success by ensuring the right guardrails are always in place.

To find out how Feedback Loop's built-in guardrails enables democratized research book a demo today!

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