What do research and sculpture have in common?

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I’d bet a fair amount of my mortgage that you’ve never asked yourself that question. And to be fair, neither had I, until I recently stumbled across a quote by Michelangelo.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the job of the sculptor to find it.”

Now, seeing as it has been argued Michelangelo exercised an unequalled influence on the development of Western art, he’s probably worth listening to, and reading his insight, it suddenly hit me that this sums up research pretty well. No, stay with me here, I haven’t gone mad, let me explain.

Firstly, at the beginning of the process, both sculptor and researcher have a blank canvas with an idea of what the results might be, but nothing pre-defined. Then as you start the project and begin to ‘chip away’, key elements and patterns start to become clear. Then finally you have your finished results which you polish and refine, before presenting them to your audience, hoping they understand and appreciate them.

Research is about attempting to find the true feelings of the respondents, understanding the subject and using the results to help provide true business intelligence. Though the results may not please everyone (and likewise art rarely invokes agreement), often debate and discussion take place, which is never a bad thing.

So rather than the stereotypical depiction of a statistical geek, I guess I’m a bit of an artist (something my art teacher definitely never thought I’d achieve), with data as my muse. It’s fair to say, I’m still working on my Sistine Chapel.

Post by Ian Thomas, Senior Research Manager


Image by Marco Crupi

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