For the Learners community, I created a short video in response to the question, “What are the arguments for research reporting into design?” You can watch the original video here.

Talking about org design for research orgs Me talking about org design for research orgs (screenshot only—click here to watch!)

My response, in typical researcher fashion, is to reframe the question: In your specific organization, where would research make the most impact?

Every organization has a different structure, culture, and appetite for research. Depending on the organization, impactful research that informs what to build, how to build it, and how to improve it can happen within any team, including design.

It’s true that in some organizations, reporting into design limits the capacity for researchers to do generative or strategic research. But that doesn’t mean that research would have more success elsewhere in that same organization. Rather it sounds like the design of the organization itself isn’t set up to optimize research.

For research to succeed, the reporting structure and the org chart are less important than the answers to these two questions:

  1. Is the person who research rolls up to empowering research?
  2. And is that person mandating that research is a key part of the decision making process?

I say this based on experience. I’ve reported to VPs of design and product, a head of user experience, COOs, CPOs, and a chief data scientist. Where I reported was far less important than whether the person I rolled up to could support research, and whether they could work cross-functionally to create the space for research to inform and support decision making.

The argument for research reporting into design is the same as if research reported into any other part of the company: if research is valued and empowered, it’s in a good spot.