We are gathered here on this solemn occasion to mark the untimely and unfortunate passing of something long held in the highest esteem by those who conducted it and by those who benefitted from it, be they in the hallowed halls of academia or in the cramped cubicles of commerce: research.
But the world will little note nor long remember its demise, superseded as it was by lives of leisure ill-suited to diligence, conscientiousness, work.
Research was born during the era known as The Great Curiosity, a moment in human history in which people actually wanted to learn things — to further themselves and civilized society with quaint precepts such as knowledge, meaning, understanding, and progress — before feverishness trumped constructiveness.
The era of The Great Curiosity was followed, of course, by the era of Just Do It (which only Nike was astute enough to brand), in which knowledge succumbed to opinion; meaning was sublimated to dogma; understanding was replaced by knee-jerk, frantic, and aimless hyperkineticism; and progress was shelved precisely at the point at which output triumphed over outcomes.
How can we be sure research is dead? We bear witness to its utter absence of vital signs daily. We don’t even verify the information we’re given, let alone derive it ourselves. We don’t question sources, methods, or results. Our jobs are not to know. Our jobs are to get. Get this. Get that. Don’t think. Don’t care. Don’t question.
Do we have responsibility? Yes. Do we have authority? No. Just do it.
Whatever we’re charged with getting will be manipulated by those for whom we get it to show whatever it needs to show by the end of the day, the week, the month, the quarter, the year — to back up a supposition, to justify a decision, to save a job, to make or break a career.
Just as empiricism is a dying art, so too are primary research and patience. Primary research takes time and discipline. We have decreasing quotients of both.
So — like the addicted gambler who constantly returns to the poker game he knows is crooked because it’s the only game in town — we accept secondary, tertiary, and/or anecdotal research as a basis for our decision-making. If the stakes are low enough — or if we’re already convinced of the correctness of our parochial opinions — we don’t even bother with that:
Hey, Fido, do you like this?
Good boy. Neither do I.
But we can raise research from the dead: If we define ROI as relevant objective intelligence and adopt it as our gold standard, we’ll also get a return on investments of our time, discipline, and patience. And we need not rely on Big Data or formal analytics.
We can achieve objective conclusions by searching a virtually limitless source of information, comprising innumerable contributors from all over the world, accessible through one application, the proper noun for which has become a verb: Google. That source can be accessed here and here. (WARNING! BAD WORDS!)
If you don’t want to conduct a broader Web search, at least consult Wikipedia. And if you haven’t done any research at all, don’t pretend you have. No one believes it. We’re certainly capable of falling for almost anything en masse. But we’re not gullible enough (yet) to believe the dog ate the Google.
Research is dead. Long live research.
Go in peace to love and serve the research.
Image by Open Clips, courtesy of pixabay.com.