I want to acknowledge something I’ve experienced that definitely feels like a ‘thing’ when conducting research.
I’m thinking about is as a ‘weight of insight’.
Let me explain.
I’ve been doing lots of research recently with people who are living with some sort of mental health issue.
I’ve heard some incredibly harrowing and personal stories about their lived experiences of trying to get support from mental health services.
They’ve shared these altruistically in an effort to ensure that things that have happened to them don’t happen to other people in the future.
As a researcher you act as a messenger, carrying insights between service users and the people who have the power to make things better.
The weight of insight isn’t just about the amount of insights you’ve learned, it’s the pressure of wanting to do them justice, communicating them effectively so that they have the same impact upon your stakeholders as they had on you when you heard them for the first time.
‘Weight’ feels like an overly negative term but it definitely feels like something that you carry and this can come with a cost, particularly when you’re researching emotional topics such as mental health.
Ironically the empathy that makes you a good researcher and helped you to extract the insight in the first place can also be the thing that increases the impact of the insight upon you.
Sharing this weight really helps.
Conducting research in teams ensures that it’s a shared experience that both shares the knowledge and the weight of insights.
Conversations after research sessions to debrief and decompress are also a really simple and beneficial thing you can do that helps.
Another way of reducing this weight is to ensure that your stakeholders watch the research first hand so that they hear the insights from the source.
Remote research has made this easier than ever allowing stakeholders to participate from anywhere using tools they will probably already have access to.
Good safeguarding practices also help to reduce the weight of insight, ensuring that you preempt the impact of what you might learn and how you can protect the people involved.