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Not every business problem is a research problem

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

Arguably, every business will always be faced with a problem of one form or another. This could be a “bad” business problem, such as customer attrition or a “good” business problem such as a rising need for products and services.


The same way medical doctors shouldn't be writing out prescriptions for the sake of it, researchers ought to be honest enough to advise their clients that not every problem with their business requires research. While all research is initiated by an existing problem, not every existing problem should initiate research. A business problem only becomes a research problem when the cause is unknown, unclear, or there is at least one other possible and probable cause for it.


For example, in a season where rainfall was low and farmers could not do their normal planting, it would be a waste of resources for a business that sold fertilizers to undertake research to find out why there was a slump in sales. However, if the price of fertilizer had also gone up, or a competing product had been launched, then while the set of plausible reasons could still be known, research would be justified for the purpose of quantifying the respective contributions of the different causes to the observed sales decline. There could be a case for climate related research and forecasting too, but then I'm only a market researcher!



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