The Science of Influential User Research for Product Managers
User research has emerged as one of the most powerful tools in a product manager’s arsenal to overcome the challenges of getting broad buy-in for product concepts and feature development. Properly utilized, research can create shared understanding, provide clarity to skepticism, and enable interest and engagement with stakeholders.
However, simply performing user research isn’t enough to unlock its value.
How a team collects and analyzes research is just the precondition for what really matters: how is information shared to influence stakeholders to make good decisions?
This article provides an overview of the concepts we utilize at Tetra to harness our understanding of human psychology to create impactful customer insights.
What Makes UX Research Presentations Compelling?
Exceptional UX research generally share the same criteria; which is that the findings are:
Among the biggest stumbling blocks for product managers when it comes to user research is sharing insights in a highly consumable format. When provided with research that fails to meet that bar, stakeholders lose interest, spend less time with the findings, don’t use it to inform decision-making about your product, and—worst of all—sometimes never even look at it.
Let’s turn to science to better understand what exactly makes user research highly consumable. Most importantly, user research must present a story—and a good one. So, what makes a good story? To find the answer, we looked at the research of Kendall Haven, the leading subject-matter expert on the neuro- and cognitive science on stories, story structure, and story architectural design. Haven is also the author of the book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story.
According to Haven, our brains are wired to process information in story form. As information comes into our brains, it first passes through our neural-story net before reaching our conscious minds. The neural-story net attempts to fit the new information into your pre-existing mental models and performs a range of mental gymnastics to make that happen, including changing facts, creating false information, ignoring pieces of the story, making inferences (right and wrong), and misinterpreting the story altogether.
If the brain ultimately can’t make sense of the information, it also can’t pay attention to it.
In research, a narrative structure helps people to avoid these pitfalls. It enables individuals to make sense of the information, to not rewrite the facts, and, of course, to remember the results. All of this increases the likelihood that people within organizations will find the research compelling, and leaders will use the outcomes to enhance product development.
How to Create an Influential Story with User Research
Let’s look at the elements of a good story and then see how they relate to user research.
According to Haven’s research, a compelling story has eight essential elements. The chart below shows that each one has a counterpart in user research.
Now, let’s talk format. At Tetra Insights, we believe that video is by far the most compelling way to tell a story (a view backed by research, of course). Think about it: Would you rather comb through a text-heavy research report or watch a video that reports on the same findings? Perhaps unsurprisingly, most people prefer watching videos. In fact, people are 12 times more likely to watch a video than read text. This is even more important for business stakeholders, who have limited time and a greater need for concise data.
It’s important to use best practices to ensure your video research reports are compelling. I recommend taking some inspiration from Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. The most successful videos on these platforms are:
For product managers, the most essential part of the user research process is how it is presented to stakeholders. Product managers who follow these best practices and use compelling storytelling—particularly via video—are more likely to have a positive impact on the decisions guiding product development.
At Tetra Insights, we’re always following the new and interesting science about user research and will continue to share our knowledge with you here. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest news. And if you’re interested in learning how Tetra’s software platform helps researchers create compelling video research, our free version is packed with powerful features.