At times, you’ll need to rapidly make sense of the question space at the same time you’re asking the questions, probing for signals to pursue new vectors of inquiry. This might happen when the work is framed broadly for the business to seek “hooks” in an unexplored space, or when you need to change course from a misdirected line of inquiry. You may also gain opportunistic access to customers in a Customer Advisory Council or your Front-Line Collaboration but lack time to align it to a larger question.
Opportunities to explore unfamiliar terrain is exciting but a lack of direction and inexperience with finding the “edges” of a question space may lead you down rabbit holes. You may find it difficult to determine what insights are of value, or when to stop a line of inquiry.
The best source of insight is always a renewed (or first) grounding in the reality of the situation at hand. When we are unsure where to go, or how to start, the best option is to evaluate the human experience of behaviors related to our goal.
Therefore, conduct exploratory research spikes or mini "pilot studies" to quickly light up areas that may warrant further exploration. Understand how people are using the product now, find the extreme cases of use, look at the people who have stopped using it, or understand the behaviors you're targeting with a new lens. Set clear expectations in advance that the nature of this work is to orient with a bird’s eye view of the landscape, as well as generate useful questions—keep it as short and simple as possible to achieve your purpose.
After Data Capture and Well-Managed Data, you can rapidly make sense with Affinity Map. Throughout the process, consistently review your understanding until you can pull a useful set of Conceptual Models to reframe the landscape, or Develop a new Actionable Research Question that will lead to new, useful work.