This post is part of our ongoing series on the action-oriented process. Centuries from now, science may advance to the point where we are able to see into the future. Until then, we have to plan for different scenarios. This means that before beginning research, savvy researchers create a scenario planning document. This document contains hypothetical research outcomes, as well as potential organizational outcomes for each. The scenario planning document is invaluable, in that it forces the organization to plan for action from the outset of the project. More importantly, it also helps identify and eliminate projects that are unlikely to lead to action.Based on interviews with Research (R)evolutions participants, Vivisum has identified a three-step process in creating a scenario plan.

Step 1: Hypothesize research outcomes

Once they define their core research questions, researchers spend time with stakeholders to identify their hypothesized outcomes on those questions. By identifying hypotheses, the research can identify widely held organizational beliefs and flag any research findings that may contradict those deeply held beliefs.

Step 2: Identify Actions

For each hypothesis that you and your team come up with, try asking this question: if this finding occurs, what will you do with that information? Think about your organization’s strategic objectives and specific action items that can result from certain insights. This helps to differentiate between actionable research and “nice to know” research.

Step 3: Adjust Research Design

Ultimately, this scenario planning process allows researchers to refine their research objectives and focus on the projects that are most likely to lead to organizational action. In some cases, this enables researchers to say no to research that is unlikely to drive organizational change.Image courtesy of Flood G. on Flickr Creative Commons

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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