Why take a research-focused approach?
Researchers in this area have the time to experiment with various different variables, and see what impact learning and learning transfer. They know that there are 100’s of influences on transfer. What they do is, they have an idea (a hypothesis) that if they manipulate one of the variables it might cause an effect on the part of the learner. If what they did had a positive effect, they record the results and they publish their findings for the world to see. If what they did had a negative effect, or no effect - it made no difference, they record that result and they publish their findings for the world to see.
Based on their findings, positive or negative, that researcher's results become a part of the body of research on this topic. Other researchers can take what they did and extend their work, manipulate the same variables but in a different way or setting. And then THAT researcher records their results and publishes their findings.
Researchers have the time to work on these things, to experiment a little, to manipulate, adjust, and readjust. They have the time to create control groups and experiment groups and to perform complex statistical analysis based on their raw data.
L&D professionals on the other hand, do not have the time to do these things. At least, they don't have the time to do these things effectively. See, L&D professionals are givers. They give their time to other people in the hope that the time they give to others will help them to grow just a little bit. But the problem is, a lot of people want a lot of our time. So, its hard to find more effective approaches.
That's why we should look to the research.
We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. Thats what this is. Let the researchers identify and manipulate the variables, let them jump the hurdles of getting approval to conduct research, and all the ethical considerations that go along with this. Let the researchers perform the analysis and defend their positions. Etc. etc.
But we shouldn't let their research be confined to research journals and gather dust on library shelves. There is gold to be found in the research. Its over to us to take these verified, research-based best practices and turn them into some more practical and real-world. Work smarter, not harder.