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Beyond Instant Gratification: The Value of Time and Patience in Good Work

As I was skimming through my social media, a series of ads popped up: 'Master ChatGPT in a day', 'Learn design thinking in a day', and more!

For a moment the world seemed to be eager to jump forward in time. In a fast-paced world of instant gratification and one-click wonders, we often miss investing deep thinking and quality time into our work.

It got me thinking: Are shortcuts really the best way to go?

Yes, if you're looking for a quick way out and a momentary sense of accomplishment. But there are initiatives where we simply can't trade time for quality results. Let me share an example from work.

When a client said, “I’m meeting with you today because you’re the best at what you do” it was a song to my ears, but gradually it turned into an anxiety alarm.

Because in almost all initial rounds of discussion with our clients on the scope of the project, timelines, and budgets, one thing clients negotiate on, more than money, is TIME.

Almost everyone wants to reduce the duration of the research project, despite knowing clearly that it is the quality of insight from the research that will give them their business objectives and decisions.

Once I negotiate and secure the required timelines and kickstart the research project, we go into yet another round of negotiation of time. They place a sense of urgency in receiving the first draft of the report so that they can show value (and maybe boast) to their leadership on the progress made during the project and how they made sure more was done in less time.

In all our projects at UCC, we place a crucial focus on staying true to the research process without encouraging any shortcuts, especially when a client is expecting the results to bring about transformative changes to their business/product strategy.

But what people miss is that connecting with research participants, immersing in their context, gathering stories of their lives, recording notes, collecting data, and capturing images and stories are not the end of the research. It is where the drill actually begins. It is important to revisit notes, photographs, audio, video, and transcripts multiple times across multiple levels of brainstorming and synthesis to arrive at 'the core' of what lies beneath the surface. That is where your real, actionable insights emerge from.

After all, users are people; their stories, feelings, motivations, and needs should be treated patiently without being biased, judgemental, or rushing to the finish line with half-baked stories. No steps can be skipped to get to a quick outcome that will foolproof the decision-making.

After years of constant pushback, I have now established basic expectations with clients to budget 'enough time' from the very start and to let us THINK and reflect on the user stories gathered during the immersion phase of any type of research.

Research demands deep listening, keen observations, and deep thinking. We have to give it the time it deserves. So I wish leaders understand there can never be fast good results, either fast results or good results.

What does your typical research project timelines look like? Which part of research do you give the maximum time to and why? How do you negotiate for ‘enough’ time on your research work? Share your experience in the comments!

- Shipra Bhutada


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