To me, user research is part art, part science and part improv. Yep, improv. But—let’s face it—not many people think of researchers as being good at improv.
In truth, we frequently have to get into character, switch roles, and channel our beginner's mindset (and quickly). We have to loosen up in order to think on our feet. We improvise when a prototype isn't done or doesn't function properly... we have technical issues, a stakeholder moved the goal post, we can’t recruit the right people, our subjects aren't responding in ways we expected. I could go on and on. Trust me, I think on my feet a lot in my work!
The improv aspect of user research is partially what makes the practice super fun too.
To me, decent research work involves a mixture of art and science, but to produce great, truly inspired work, you need to also add in the ability to improvise. There are opportunities to do so from the first meeting with a new client, during each stakeholder interaction, when conducting (or performing!) the research with the people we’re studying, and after.