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12 Tips for more effective collaborations as UX researchers

Effective collaboration is essential in the dynamic landscape of UX research. Working with your team and stakeholders is part of our daily jobs, but it is not always the easiest. How do you collaborate most effectively? Our UXinsight Festival 2024 speakers, seasoned professionals in the field, share their invaluable insights. From nurturing stakeholder engagement to establishing inclusive practices, their tips form a roadmap for teaming up in UX research.

Tip 1 – Bring people together intentionally and often

Aiden Hirschfield – Researchers are the glue that holds the team together. Make that glue sticky by bringing people together intentionally and often. I recommend that UX research hosts frequent workshops that balance team-building activities, structured education, and fun! These can be opportunities for activities like Insight Downloads (a few findings that might inspire people), TILs (“Today I Learned” quirky and interesting lessons), or Crafting (actually doing arts and crafts or one person sharing their unique talent/craft).

Researchers are the glue that holds the team together

Aiden Hirschfield

Tip 2 – Empathize with your stakeholders

Maureen Ariza Paredes – Treat your stakeholders and the organization as another side of the research participant coin- isn’t a new concept and certainly one we didn’t come up with, but having this framing going into all our interactions has been key for us!!! After all, the research we do is for these folks. For example: 

  • Interview/get to know your stakeholders (PMs, designers, marketers, senior leadership, engineers). Ask them things like: What does their job look like? What do they like/dislike most about their work? What keeps them up at night?
  • Building a map of your stakeholders and what they care about will help you assess the best ways to collaborate to help them make better decisions. 

Anna Messini – I use empathy to put myself into the position of my stakeholders, colleagues or research participants and try to understand them better. Being transparent, forming personal connections and actively listening has served me well in my collaborations. 

Tip 3 – Be mindful in building the relationship

Soma Ray – While creating allies, I divide my time between creating personal connections with no immediate goal (coffee and lunch chats – ‘water the garden’) and creating professional outcomes with near-term goals (knowledge sharing, co-working, attending cross-functional meetings, etc. – ‘harvest the garden’).

Don’t forget to water the garden when creating allies

Soma Ray

Tip 4 – Focus on where or from whom you get wind in your sails

Annegret Bönemann – Focus on where or from whom you get wind in your sails. Navigate around the obstacles and adapt to your context. Zoom in and out to find the best possible path. And most of all, Keep doing, and don’t stand still in all the talking 😉

Tip 5 – Involve your stakeholders along the way

Lucas Lemasters – Ensure your stakeholders are part of the research journey to avoid stagnant data sitting on their desks! Begin early, gather their hypotheses, and focus on answering their questions while validating customer needs. Keep it straightforward and effective. 

Glenn Stevens – Engaging with product, marketing, and other stakeholders from the outset of the research strategy ensures we tackle crucial questions and inform key business decisions. It also places research more upstream, elevating our relevance and influence. I’ve developed specific workshop formats and templates (including a co-created research plan) that collect all the needed input and ensure alignment.

Tip 6 – Build a diverse team

Hannah Mitchell – Our team comes from various career backgrounds and experiences, meaning we all tackle a problem in different ways. It not only speeds up the problem-solving process, but we always learn new things from each other and have fun along the way.

Tip 7 – Partner up with other insights teams

Glenn Stevens – Partnering with other insight teams, such as marketing research, data science, CX, and CRO, enriches our collective understanding. It provides a more complete, triangulated view of our target audience, what they need, and how we’re doing. Even when such a structure is not (yet) formalised, reaching out across departments and collaborating on key initiatives helps the insights people feel part of the “central intelligence agency” inside the company.

Tip 8 – Nourish an open and curious mindset

Akinyi Odera – User feedback can often be clouded with researcher bias; especially when the topic, hypothesis or prototype has been tested before. A team’s ability to maintain a curious mindset is as crucial as the boldness to explore uncharted components.

Krutika Subramanian – My team for most research projects includes my product manager, product designer, content designer, data analyst and myself. Depending on project types, customer support agents and messaging operations specialists also get involved. In most cases, we begin the project together as a team with an assumptions mapping workshop, where we brainstorm, map and prioritise all the assumptions that led to the need for the research, which would then define the research questions. This makes it easy for the whole team to feel a sense of ownership towards the research and the research insights in turn.

Akinyi Odera – The more open a team is to experiment, with minimal top-down structures, the higher the likelihood of high-quality output. Team leaders need to maintain a pulse on the project’s needs and balance giving direction and encouraging experimentation. During experimentation, it is important to carve out moments dedicated to divergence, ideation, creativity, and positive critique before beginning to narrow down potential solutions.

Conducting research requires an emotionally safe space to nurture empathy, observability and curiosity…

Krutika Subramanian

Tip 9 – Motivate through small initiatives

Diana Prokusheva – Since we work remotely, we have decided to take on small projects based on personal initiatives. We have a special planning process where colleagues can share their ideas. If someone from the team wants to join, they form an initiative group and take on this project. For example, we created an advent calendar with funny comics about UX research, and this year, we are planning to host a meetup about UX research. Our small projects usually have clear outcomes and help us to be creative while boosting motivation and spending time together.

Tip 10 – Make sure that all voices are heard

Julie Nelson – When working with a team, it is important that everyone has a voice. It’s easy to get drowned out in a crowd, but when we make the extra effort to ensure that all team members are heard and have input, the project always gets elevated. 

Tip 11 – Partner up with another UX specialist

Laura Pledger – We like to have two UX specialists working together on projects, with one person being the lead and the other as support. This approach has multiple benefits, including sharing the facilitation of user research and support with larger project workshops. We’ve also found that challenging stakeholder conversations can be better tackled with more voices advocating for the end users. Having two people who understand the research in-depth aids idea generation and means knowledge is spread across the team. During periods of absence, we can quickly and efficiently pick up work and cover for each other without needing long hand-overs.  

René Bastijans – I recommend having at least 1 (human) ‘partner’ when conducting research. I have found it very helpful because they would take notes, and ask questions, too, which allowed me to better focus on the participant, listen and collect the data the team needs in order to make decisions. Having a ‘partner’ also helps with the analysis and synthesis, and ensures we stay true to ourselves and research principles, e.g. scientific enquiry.

Tip 12 Make collaboration easy and smooth

Corinne Schillizzi – Establishing roles and responsibilities during research sessions is important when doing UX research within a team. And if you split to parallelize your work, then defining and following a protocol is critical.

In the end, we are all human beings trying to do what is best with the tools we have and within our life context.

Anna Messini

Final thoughts

The success of research projects lies in cultivating collaboration, and the road towards impact is paved with empathy, teamwork, and continuous learning. You might already apply some of the tips from our speakers, some might be new and some more applicable to your situation than others, but undoubtedly, they inspire you to make collaborating with your team and stakeholders easier and even more fun.

In addition to these valuable tips, our speakers will share much more during the upcoming UXinsight Festival. Check out the program here! Are you joining us?

Cover photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

UXinsight Festival 2024 – April 15-17

Stay Curious, Be Bold

We’re back with our 8th edition in spring 2024!

🥳 3 days full of workshops, talks, live Q&As and networking

Join us at Europe’s largest UXR conference for everyone passionate about UX research ❤️

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Karin den Bouwmeester (she/her)

Karin is the founder of UXinsight. With over 20 years of hands-on research experience, she’s determined to help the research community grow to a mature level. She loves to connect UX researchers from all over the world and facilitating user research training and workshops.

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