It Pays to do our Research

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Linked In grows bigger every month, and it keeps throwing bits of information our way, some of which is even useful. Recently I got sent a piece on Sam Walton through Linked In (thanks guys), founder of the megalithic Walmart retail chain in the USA. Apparently Sam knew all about the basic principles of Good Research, and it helped him to build a massive business. We won’t go into the culture of Walmart and how it treats its workers here, but stick to the topic of today’s exploration – Research.

(1) Ask questions – Sam Walton was a master at asking questions. He constantly talked to people, from customers to frontline employees, managers, and even competitors. He regularly visited stores to see how the company could improve, and he was famous for carrying a yellow notepad to write ideas and observations. Sam knew that understanding people and their ideas starts with asking questions and applying what you learn.

(2) Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you – He never worried about having other people who knew heaps more than him, about whatever was the point of an investigation. His talent was gathering a diverse group of talented people to get the right things done. 

(3) Hold to what’s working and change what’s not – When something was working for Walmart, a process, a team, or a product, Sam stuck with it. He stayed firm to his vision and purpose, and didn’t “chase shiny things.” But when things weren’t working, or they could be improved, Sam experimented and tried new things. When he found something that worked, he scaled it across the entire company.

Research and Evaluation are part and parcel of most of our activities today, to justify whatever expenditure of effort and funds that we have to make. So as we proceed  with such investments, the three simple tips above make for very effective research practice.