Business Plan For Good: 2. Collaborative Research Phase

The second phase of the Business Plan For Good is all about understanding stakeholders through 'collaborative research'.

The second phase of the Business Plan For Good is all about understanding stakeholders through 'collaborative research'. Collaborative research is a set of techniques and research strategies to address stakeholders needs, gather feedback and brainstorm solutions.

The second phase of the Business Plan For Good is all about understanding stakeholders through 'collaborative research'. Collaborative research is a set of techniques and research strategies to address stakeholders needs, gather feedback and brainstorm solutions.

You will start by identifying your stakeholders and understanding their needs (2.1). You will move then to gather more in-depth feedback through surveys and interviews (2.2). Finally, you will identify the main challenges you have to overcome in order to fulfil stakeholders' needs and start to ideate circular solutions based on them (2.3).

2.1 Understanding stakeholders behaviours and needs

Understanding stakeholders' behaviours and needs is a fundamental step to develop a circular strategy for your business. By keeping in mind their needs you will be sure to develop processes, products and services that are not only circular but that are also relevant to them.

Begin by identifying the stakeholders across your value chain (A), and then start to think about how you will collect their feedback (B).

A) Identify Stakeholders

Start by defining the stakeholders sitting in your value chain, including your customers: who are the people you think will benefit the most from your new circular product, service or process?

B) Embedding Feedback

Once you have identified key stakeholders, start by formulating hypotheses on the impact of your new business resolutions. Then, write which evidence you will need to evaluate these hypotheses. Decide then how you will collect data (surveys, interviews, analytics, user testing, etc.) and how you plan to use the evidence. Repeat the process for every group of stakeholders.


2.2 Gather Feedback

Once you have identified the key individuals, the most effective way to find out about their needs is by gathering direct feedback from them. Feedback is important because it can be used as a base for the development of your new products and services. Gathering feedback is the way to keep your customers, stakeholders and partners at the centre of your strategy.

The two main ways to gather feedback are stakeholders surveys (A) and exploratory interviews (B). You can adopt both methods individually but often the most complete feedback is obtained by complementing questionnaire results with interviews. Once you have gathered feedback, move to the internal ideation section (2.3).

A) Stakeholders Surveys

Conducting surveys is a method of gathering information from a sample of individuals, with the aim of generalising results to take strategic decisions. You can conduct surveys internally (e.g. for your employees) and externally (e.g. for your customers).

Stakeholder surveys are a quantitative tool you can use to increase your understanding of the behaviours, attitudes, needs and experiences of your stakeholders (both internal and external). The findings can be used to develop or improve your processes, products or services.

A.1 Define the research question and objectives

Start by developing the main research question, thinking about what you are trying to find out with the survey. Do you want to know what your customers think about your new service or about your business in general? Do you want to understand what your employees think should be implemented? Are you more interested to see what your partners think about your new direction?

A.2 Identify who you will be surveying

Identify who can help you answer your research question: it can be partners, employees, actual or potential customers. Identify the segment and understand the most appropriate channel to reach out to them (website, email, social media channels, etc.).

A.3 Design and test the survey

Determine first the format of the questions: they can be closed-ended, open-ended or based on a scale (e.g. 1-5). Then, develop the questionnaire structure and layout: you can start with warm-up questions (e.g. demographic questions) and then create more difficult questions.

Once this is done, review the questionnaire internally and seek feedback from a sample of participants. Incorporate their feedback in the questionnaire and test it again with a sample of stakeholders.

4. Determine the sample of respondents

Choose the sample of respondents within each group of stakeholder you want to survey, and the group is not too large, adopt a random sampling method. Make sure each group sample is proportional to the total stakeholder population.

Remember your customers might not always be an unbiased sample for all types of research: if you are launching a new service for a new segment, for example, your current customers may not be representative of potential buyers.

5 Administer the survey

Send out the survey and make sure to have a high response rate for each segment. You can improve the response rate by making clear the aim of the questionnaire and by making respondents a feeling a sense of ownership.

6. Analyse data

According to the size of your questionnaire, you can opt for statistical methods to analyse results (such as regression analysis, analysis of variance or conjoint analysis) or simply aggregate results using tools such as SPSS or Excel. You might also consider using specific software to ease the process such as Qualtrics. Always remember to disaggregate and compare survey findings in line with the objectives stated in the survey

B) Exploratory Interviews

Interviews are great qualitative tools that can be used to understand more in-depth the needs, behaviours and attitudes of stakeholders. If paired with results coming from questionnaires, interviews can give a more qualitative focus to your research.

Meeting directly with your stakeholders helps you gain empathy for those you are developing a service for, but also for all people sitting in your value chain. During exploratory interviews, the question areas are pre-determined but respondents are allowed some latitude to answer in their own way and the interviewer may probe for more information in promising areas.

B.1 Select your interviewees

As a first step, start by selecting one or more representatives of every stakeholder group you are considering important. Try to choose those who best represent the stakeholder group you want to discover more about.

B.2 Define interview objectives

Choose the objective of the interview for every stakeholder. What do your partners think about your new business direction? What are the needs of your employees? How can your customer benefit from your new product/service?

B.3 Develop questions accordingly

Create a set of questions based on your objectives. Try to focus on questions that can make you understand their needs. What is their current experience? Where do they experience pains or challenges? How can you make their lives easier?

B.4 Schedule a time and place

Take some time to meet people in their environment: this allows you to better contextualise their answers and puts you in their perspective. If you are meeting a customer, meet them where they are using your service or product. If you are meeting a partner or supplier meet them in their workspace/factory.

B.5 Use questions as a checklist

Try to have a conversation as natural as possible: let the interviewee led the conversation to what's important to them. The pre-determined questions you developed should be used as a checklist to assure you covered all the topics.

B.6 Discuss learnings internally

With your interviews done, discuss with your team the results and insights. Let everyone share what they have heard and express their learnings. Think about how these learnings can affect the products, services and processes you are creating and what ideas they might inspire.

2.3 Internal Ideation Session

After having gathered feedback from your stakeholders with interviews and questionnaires, you can start to ideate new solutions based on their needs.

You will begin by describing five main challenges you see emerging from their needs (A). Move on and brainstorm individually ideas on how to solve one or more of these challenges (B) and then brainstorm in a group and discuss the best ideas. Finally, select the most promising ideas and think about how you could make them more circular (D).

A) Identify Challenges

Identify five major challenges you need to overcome to fulfil your stakeholder's needs. Define every challenge by asking yourself the question 'how might we..'. For example, if your customers need a more affordable product, your challenge might be "how might we develop a more affordable product without compromising on circularity?"Once this is done, select one main challenge to move forward based on its relevance and its potential for circularity.

B) Individual Brainstorming

Each participant brainstorms ideas individually on how to solve the challenge. Each participant picks a different sticky notes colour to brainstorm his/her own ideas.

C) Group Brainstorming

Have each participant move their stickies into the main area below. Then, start a collective brainstorming and discuss together the individual ideas. You can group ideas by topic and similarity. Finally, vote for the ideas that seem most promising dragging the dots you find below the area.

D) Make Ideas Circular

Develop further the main ideas you have identified in the previous brainstorming phase. Start by giving a name to the idea and describing its concept. Then, describe what makes it circular and what is the desired impact. Finally, mention who it is for and if there are other stakeholders that can be possibly involved.

The Collaborative Research Phase is an important step towards the development of circular solutions (product/services) for your business. Circular solutions should be always based on stakeholders needs, whose feedback must be first gathered and included. At the end of this second phase, you will gain a clear understanding of your stakeholders' needs, the challenges you have to overcome and a first set of circular solutions to address these challenges.

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The second phase of the Business Plan For Good is all about understanding stakeholders through 'collaborative research'. Collaborative research is a set of techniques and research strategies to address stakeholders needs, gather feedback and brainstorm solutions.