To develop products and services that people love to use I believe Design Research is key. However, sometimes design research needs to be more ad-hoc.
Even the shortest or simplest form of research can bring useful insights on which further development can be based. Using sacrificial concepts for example to test assumptions about certain issues and solutions can work very well when there is a need to quickly conceptualize solutions. Or going out, to the target group, and involve them in short interviews or 'games' can also help to understand a diverse group quickly.
When working with IDEO for a large digital company in Australia, we created more than 60 prototypes over the span of 6 weeks during our initial sacrificial concepts research phase. Eventually, 3 complete ecosystems of products were presented with 3 completely working prototypes.
Read more about the project here.