If I take one major lesson away from my time in Reese News Lab this semester, this quote would be it:

“There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the answer. That just means you need to do more digging.”

I don’t think anybody actually used that exact quote — so I’ll take credit for it right now — but the idea of discovery and doing research has become seared into my brain over the past four months.

Question everything. It’s worth it.
At Reese News Lab, everything is questioned. As your product is picked apart and your pitch is critiqued, you start to doubt your instincts, your sources of information and your thinking process.

It’s absolutely wonderful.

And no, I’m not joking.

I believe the best thing about the lab — the defining feature that makes it such a beneficial experience — is the work atmosphere and the fact that every claim needs clarification and support.

In developing our projects, we need to support our claims with data. We need to support our own user testing with similar results discovered by other researchers. We need to justify our cost and revenue projections by comparing them to industry standards and similar products.

We don’t do all of that just to say we did; we do it because we understand that research is the backbone of any successful product.

As we do it, we better ourselves as students and eventual professionals. Whether it’s working within the startup process or any other industry, the importance of using that knowledge and data will be invaluable. It’s a quality that sets Reese News Lab staffers apart from their peers and will eventually help lab alumni separate themselves as prospective employees.

Moving forward
Experience is great, questioning is fun, and learning is just super.

But the question remains: How am I going to apply all this to life outside the lab?

I had a great semester working at Reese News Lab, but all good things must come to an end, and I’m excited about where things are headed.

Right now, I am working with another UNC student to launch a digital marketing firm, mainly tailored for startups or small companies struggling with their Web presence. The idea is still in a developmental stage, but we are excited about its potential and our passion for the project.

Every time we meet, I treat our thought process the same way I did during this semester at Reese News Lab. I ask if our business model is viable, feasible and desirable. I look to prove everything with hard data, and I constantly question why we are doing something, who would benefit from it, and whether it is worth doing.

In a nutshell
As much as I hate to do this, I think I’ve been able to boil down my semester into three major takeaways:

1) Questioning is everything.
If you don’t know the answer, find out what it is, and then verify it. If there is no answer, create one.

2) Ideas are fun, but they need substance.
As much as everyone loves brainstorming, sometimes the most exciting ideas are the least viable. Rushing into a fun idea is never wise unless there is data to justify it.

3) Shake things up — make an impact.
Disruption is a major part of what we do at Reese News Lab. The most lasting change typically comes from outside an industry. It can be scary, but it’s necessary, and being a part of it is exciting.

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