Navigating the Future of Research

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Beyond the Reckoning to New Horizons

In the last year or so the grounds have been shifting a lot for user researchers. The conversation surrounding the “research reckoning” has oscillated between concern and optimism, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the future roles of researchers within organizations. As we stand at this crossroads, contemplating what the future holds for these vital architects of insight, it’s clear that evolution is not just inevitable but necessary. The landscape of research is expanding, and with it, the roles and expectations of those who navigate its terrain.

The Enduring UX Researcher

The role of the UX Researcher, as we know it, is poised for transformation rather than obsolescence. The essence of UX research—gathering insights to inform and enhance product design—remains indispensable. However, the future beckons these researchers to deepen their integration within both the product lifecycle and the broader business strategy. Tomorrow’s UX Researchers will not only unearth insights but also articulate how these insights align with and propel the product and business forward. This evolution underscores a transition from pure research to strategic influence, embedding researchers more deeply into the fabric of product development and decision-making.

The Rise of the Research Architect

We envision a transcendent role for the Research Architect, which we’ve written about before. This orchestrator of research efforts emerges as the connective tissue between diverse organizational roles, crafting a cohesive research strategy that aligns with overarching business goals. The Research Architect is a visionary, seeing beyond individual projects to weave a tapestry of insights that informs the entire product ecosystem. This role embodies the shift from craftsperson to strategist, emphasizing the orchestration of research as a foundational pillar in shaping product and business trajectories.

Researchers as Product Leaders

On a recent Lenny’s Podcast, Claire Vo brought up the fluid nature of organizations and organizational design. To that end, I think we’ll see Product teams shift, where many people now in a product manager role shift over to ProdOps, creating room for some researchers to move into the role of product management and leadership. Industry leader, SC Moatti, identified the ability to build personalized empathy into products as a paramount skill for product managers. This is a domain where researchers excel and can lead the charge. Researchers possess a unique set of skills and perspectives that equip them to pioneer efforts in embedding empathy into products, ensuring that user needs and experiences are at the heart of product strategy. This potential for researchers to steer product management towards deeper empathy and user-centricity marks a significant opportunity for impact.

Looking Forward

As we look to the future, it’s clear that the value researchers bring to organizations will not diminish; instead, it will diversify and deepen. The roles of UX Researchers, Research Architects, and those transitioning into product leadership signify a broader understanding of research as not just a function but a strategic advantage. The future of research is not a question of relevance but of evolution, embracing new roles, responsibilities, and opportunities to drive meaningful product outcomes.

Platforms like Rutabaga become instrumental in embracing these emerging roles. By enabling researchers and product teams to translate customer feedback into actionable insights, Rutabaga supports the transition towards these new horizons, ensuring that research continues to be a cornerstone of innovation and strategic decision-making.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of research and product development, it’s essential to remember that the core of research—the pursuit of understanding and the application of insights—remains unchanged. The challenge and opportunity lie in how we adapt these principles to new roles and changing organizational needs, ensuring that the future of research is as impactful as it is innovative.

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