• Sherry P. Johnson

Three Signs You're Facilitating a Researcher... And What to Do About It

The Researcher: People with this orientation come to meetings to see and share data. They want accurate, user-friendly reports and lots of quantitative information available for every decision. While this orientation can keep decisions grounded in context, they can also slow down processes until everyone else is bored and checks out.

This is part one of the four “meeting orientations” blog series. The Researcher, The Inventor, The Analyst, and The Doer. Let’s look at The Researcher’s possible motivations and fears and suggest ways you can not only work with them, but also help them feel seen and capitalize on their gift for grounding groups in context.


How do you know when you’ve got a Researcher in your midst, and how can you respond?


1. Everyone will feel the Researcher's desire for accuracy. They are never satisfied by half-measures. They have a need for careful presentation and consideration of facts, and when those needs aren’t met, they can shut down during the meeting and never come back--or only when armed with lists of facts. Their careful natures can lead to boredom for other types who are more idea- or action-oriented. Hurt feelings can also result when Researchers don't attend to personalities and values.

  • Always start with gathering collective data. Make sure your researchers get to use their gifts to research, but give them clear boundaries so they don't go in too deeply.

  • Assign homework, if at all possible. If possible, assign a bit to everyone so you model the importance of grounding the group's work in shared, objective reality as much as possible.

2. Researchers can significantly impact timing. Participants can get caught up in research and fact-checking and gain a deep understanding of context–sometimes causing the group to run out of time for thoughtfully responding to the data. On the other hand, some folks shut down when confronted with deep data dives, which can result in much time spent reengaging and summarizing to keep some participants engaged throughout the process.

  • Create and communicate constraints. Have the group make their decisions within an agreed-upon time frame and help them articulate what constitutes "enough" data-gathering. What's ideal? What's the minimum? And above all, are folks getting time and resources to do the research?

  • Make it fun. Always look for ways to make data gathering and group analysis more playful. Use color. Use tabletops. Use sticky walls. If there's a way to game-ify the analysis, do it. That said, always check in with your researchers to make sure you're not losing important threads of data.

3. Researchers ensure specific results. Despite the risks above, their presence makes sure that a group is actually making decisions for their own, specific context. An emphasis on good data grounds a process in addressing the specific needs of a particular time and place. Researchers will make sure the group faces reality, rather than an abstract or personal view of a context. Their discontent with nonsense and half-measures makes them great allies in experimentation work, where multiple and frequent assessment is key to tracking and adjusting outcomes.

  • Get the right people in the room. If you don't ensure difference in perspectives, your data will only show you one side of the whole picture. People tend to see only the data that agrees with their points of view, so make this plain when the group forms. Cultivate dissent as a facilitator when differences aren't represented.

  • Plan for evaluation. Make sure data collection and analysis is part of the group's decision and outcomes. Researchers aren't going to be pleased if the group's outcomes won't be evaluated, and neither should you.

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