I was prompted to write this by a post penned by Neil Morrison on the new Chareterd Institute of Personnel and Development CEO Peter Cheese. Peter is trying to open up the CIPD and push it forward.

I left this comment on Neil’s blog . .

There is some excellent – and challenging – research taking place at the CIPD. Really like the work John McGurk is involved in, the Steady State report being just one of them. The issue is to socialise the work they do. Rather than talk about the social business they can start to role model it, which would be very engaging for members. For example, research projects could be ‘socialised’ so that members could see them develop and participate if relevant. Currently research takes place behind closed doors and is published to a place on the (enormous) website never to be seen again. Or rather loads of cost is then incurred in PR and marketing the report. A more open approach could save money, get people engaged and show how forward thinking the institute is. Winner!

. . . and I wanted to pick up on it here. Currently, research and case studies are closed affairs. They are briefed, private conversations carried out and results published. Case studies are in effect success stories that tend to be massively managed by corporate comms teams and PRs.

What I have described is what I would consider to be the ‘old way’ of doing things.  The process tends to be self-limiting in that its scope is set by resource – usually the time and cost of the people dong the research and writing the report or case study. It is also limited by the scope of the people carrying out the research.

At the end of the process the findings are published and tend to be buried in an archive or lost in a PR puff of ‘case study success’.

Usually the research or case study is aimed at external stakeholders.

So, self-limiting and restrictive in its reach. Also controlled and packaged for certain people. Usually presented in a fairly dull, report style too.

But it could be so different. Think instead of research and case studies being a narrative through which you are trying to find things out and learn things.

Then think about a process which involves telling the story of the research and case study as it unfolds – to narrate it. And then think about sharing this narrative through relevant networks. At this point others may well get interested in the research and the emerging stories and they might want to help develop it. Is that a bad thing? It might challenge the traditional process but it is not a bad thing at all.

The process will be enriched, perspectives potentially broadened and you may well have a lot more engaged readers, narrators and contributors as a result. Oh, and by the time you publish the findings you would have done your marketing and PR. The network would have made sure of that.

And in this new process the publication of a case study or piece of research will not stop – the research will only spark new conversations which will open up new avenues of inquiry.

Maybe thinking of this type of research or case studies as a journey or a narrative is more useful. The technology is there for us to do it and it will help spread the really interesting research work and case studies that get missed by so many people.

Oh and a final thought on case studies – they are usually about what works, so while compiling this story make sure you narrate it to those involved and the rest of the business – there is more value in doing this than packaging it up for external readers only. Learning from what works is often overlooked in organisations. Telling and sharing success stories – like case studies – is a part of sharing what works.

[Picture credit: Arinas74]