Research, analysis, evaluation

The Good Attitude

One of the problems researchers have is that their advice is often construed as negative. For example, you often have to give people your opinion that an idea that they're very enthusiastic about won't work as they have conceived of it, and they sometimes consider that advice to be negative.

In fact, the point of research and analysis is to rise above the positive and the negative. The point is to be effective. If a database project, for example, is going to cost a lot of money and produce no benefits, pointing that fact out is simply a matter of being professionally responsible.

Being professionally responsible also means trying to find more practical alternatives. Sometimes the best alternative is as simple as reducing the scope of the project. The scope may be reduced by assessing the utility of the information to be collected and eliminating the least useful information, or simply by beginning the project by implementing only part of it a small-scale project that works is better than a full-scale project which collapses under its own weight, and once the small-scale project is working it can be expanded into a larger-scale project.

Researchers often are considered negative simply because they bring inconvenient tidings. For example, the news that a test a client is using is unreliable may be received badly if the client didn't know that the reliability of a test needed to be assessed in the first place. Even if you can't improve the reliability of the test, though, knowing that its results are inaccurate (which is what being unreliable means) obviously will save you from basing decisions on misleading data.

Questioning a procedure or product is good, because either the questioning will show that the procedure or product is adequate or it will show how to improve the procedure or product. Denying the possibility of improvement is what is profoundly negative, and it is not part of the repertoire of the successful decisionmaker.

The Good Attitude © 2000, John FitzGerald
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