Editor's note: Lauren DeRaleau is the Head of Research and Strategy at Glass.

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Rapid iteration is powerful and freeing. Psychologically alone, it’s incredibly effective at unlocking the overwhelming task of getting it perfect and instead freeing us up to try something, evaluate it and then tweak it for the better.

Long before the research industry fell in love with the word “agile,” the tech industry was already there. Software development, working cycles, thinking and evaluation strategies focused on agility, with a respect for progress and speed above having the end goal fully visualized.

In a time of “doing more with less,” anything that allows for that speed, price and efficiency wins. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve excitedly adopted the concept of agility into our research. Learning as you go, not being caught up in red tape as you work, having answers soon after you have the question – that’s powerful stuff.

I’m not sure, however, that we spend enough time talking about how risky it can be.

Rapid iterative research, fast feedback loops for directional answers – these aren’t new. These have long been used to complement the business process they’re informing. Within the past ~three years, I’ve seen the concept of “agile research” used increasingly as a solution to the bureaucracy, cost and slowness that bog down company innovation and decision-making processes. In some of these cases, instead of becoming a powerful tool, “agile research” starts to take over the whole toolkit.

As researchers, we know not all answers are created equal. Rapid information can be incredibly disorienting without the right context. Having an “answer” can be very powerful – whether or not it’s the right one.

I had a brainstorming session with my team on all things agile research. What we spent our time discussing boiled down to three major themes:

1. Agility requires the freedom to change direction and use multiple tools. One of my team members had the experience of her past company “investing in an agile research platform.” This unlocked a great tool and inspired new working styles but the subscription cost also meant less ability to afford other tools and there was a push to use this new platform as much as possible to prove the ROI. We wondered, if a significant upfront platform investment is required to do agile research, how agile are you left being across your research and decision-making toolkit?

2. The fastest route to information and answers is to have them already accessible. Building the ongoing research programs (e.g., CX, tracking, syndicated) that put pertinent information at-the-ready, while not agile systems themselves, are key enablers of an agile workplace. Setting up ways to get those ongoing insights in the hands of decision makers enables improved decision-making instantly. Democratizing the data and insights already available is something we talk about a lot as an industry but maybe not as much as we should within the framework of agility.

3. Having access to tools that give fast answers does not work if you’re not asking the right question. The breadth of methodologies we use as a research industry evolved because different questions need different approaches to get the right answer. And some decisions can’t be informed by a traditional “question” at all!  

So, at Glass, we’re trying something different. We’re making a bet that removing the expert – yes, a human one – isn’t the only way toward a lower cost and faster timelines. What that looks like, for us, is:

  • Technology that enables speed and cost savings, when paired with the strategy of an expert researcher, is incredibly effective – and can be incredibly agile.
  • The ability to do true custom research so the work matches the needs and doesn’t restrict the best possible approach.
  • No subscription or platform fee so we’re a tool in your toolkit and not forcing you to give up the choice of another tool that better serves another project.

Every company wants to be agile. Let’s keep thinking on how research and insights best enable that.