User Research is an important part of User Experience (UX) Design. However, you have to be careful to use this tool in the right way. A hammer is a good tool, but you don’t use it to cut a 2×4. The biggest misuse of User Researching is to validate your existing ideas.
In other words, people come up with an idea and make assumptions about their market. Mockups are made and some engineering work begins. A user researcher is hired and sets up some sessions with the target audience. The mistake is that the research session is used to pitch the idea and show the work to try and validate you are on the right track.
The more effective use of user research is to explore your ideas further. To get texture around them, to open up your eyes to new ideas or ways of thinking about the issue. Use user research to understand how their lives and minds work now. Don’t try to convince them of your way of thinking.
Any user researcher will tell you this rule. However, we constantly break the rule because our brains are hard-wired against it. We hear an opinion and we want to extrapolate a pattern based on the point of view. Knowing this, you have to fight against the temptation.
I wonder many losing battles our brains make us fight. Seth Godin calls it the “Lizard Brain.” I prefer the “Monkey Mind”. Either way, we need to go beyond our base instincts if we want to be successful.