We have all heard sayings like this before, “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” —Edward de Bono. Problem identification is the first and most important part of solving a problem. In research, before starting a project, it is important to do much of the same thing. However, since most research projects can have an extended life to them, we need a little more substance than simply target identification.
In Marketing Action Research, I usually start with targeting either People, Process, Product/Service or Place/Platform or a subset of one of these areas. We develop a vision of where we want to go and the accompanying target condition. However, I think that more often than not, these components being even though critical are the least defined. This has been my experience in most marketing projects.
In my research, excuse the pun, I have found Richard Sagor’s method the most concise and actually the easiest to use for developing a well-structured focus. Remember, that this is not only for ourselves but for others, and often needed for project funding. As Sagor, a well-known authority in Action Research sums it up;
Why is Having a Clear Vision So Necessary? Opportunities rarely exist for going back and giving things a second try. This very real risk of losing our direction and thereby failing to reach our desired destination should motivate us to be disciplined and deliberative when planning our action research—that is, our planned exploration of a not-yet-visited destination. The Action Research Guidebook, 3rd Edition
In Marketing Action Research, as in most projects, we are often in a hurry to get to the doing stage. However, I would challenge you to think of the Focusing stage as an integral part of doing. This should not be done in isolation, and this outline provides an immediate opportunity to take the reflective process into a collaborative process.