There have been many occasions over the last 20 odd years when I have questioned the role that data is expected to play for an organisation. Organisations collect a lot of data either internally or pay for its collection externally. In fact many organisations are awash with the data they collect.
In times of increasing competition and decreasing profitability in many sectors, what can organisations do to compete profitably? The answer from most of us and rightly so would be “Insights” : a word that is bandied around by marketing organisations, advertising agencies, research agencies, consultants et al.
What is an Insight?
The Cambridge online dictionary says an insight is a “clear, deep and sometimes sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation.”
Are insights earth shattering? – Not necessarily so. As in life, don’t wait for the big moments, remember just as life is a series of small moments, insights are also not necessarily changing the course of the business, but hopefully helping them do some things better or differently.
A common grouse against most people working with data is that they do just that – provide data and not insights.
So how do we improve on our “insightfulness”? This article does not claim to talk about tools & techniques : there are enough experts in that field and I am not one of them. However, I firmly feel that there is a certain mindset that helps.
This article lays down my view on the 10 principles to develop what I call an “Insight Mindset.”
1. Be clear about the problem
The starting point always needs to be the problem/situation/issue to be addressed and this needs to be constantly kept in mind. Any piece of analysis needs to be put through the filter of “How will this help address the problem?”
This applies also to those who are briefing others about the problems.
2. Remove the blinkers
Keep the goal clearly in mind but remember that there are many possible ways to get there. It is the goal that matters, not the path. But naturally, the most efficient route should be chosen.
Many times we do not allow ourselves the little side meanderings from the straight and narrow which enrich the experience. Keep the goal in mind, but see the broader picture.
3. Appreciate the differences : My way is not necessarily the best way
A blinkered approach from the other side! Many times (and I suspect I do this more often than I would like to think I do) at a senior level or as a client we tend to fall in love with what we propose and ram it through – forcefully or with the proverbial velvet glove on our iron fist. Insights come from cross fertilization, different viewpoints. Listen and respect those points of view. Even if it does not add to today’s project, rest assured the pay off will come one day.
4. Do not be afraid to cut your losses
Do not flog a dying horse! You may have spent a lot of time barking up a particular tree, but if you reach a point where you are fairly sure that you are not likely to go too far, abandon this tree and look for another one!
5. Do not get bogged down by data
The problem with working with data is that more often than not, we allow the data to rule us. Be clear that the data is a tool for YOU to mould and manipulate and not the reverse. There will be occasions when the data may not clearly show what you feel is intuitively true. Hold the thought and do not throw it away.
6. Connect the dots
Insights come from different sources. Do not compartmentalize the data – link the tables and the slides, different sources – have you seen other data that supports your view, your life’s experiences! Draw from all your experiences – personal and professional.
7. Wear multiple hats.
In today’s fast paced and busy world, multitasking is key and this applies to Insights as well. I personally find myself slightly schizophrenic when I am shopping – on the one hand I am a shopper with my personal shopping agenda and on the other hand, I am storing away an observation of a 5 year old throwing a tantrum at the Juice section and his negotiations with his mother.
8. Get the experience
All good things come with time and experience! Good insights need time to mull over data and connect the dots. Further, the more you experience in life, the more dots you generate to connect. Deadlines are becoming shorter and we live in the age of Instant Noodles – waiting for the grey hair for added wisdom is not an option today. So go out there and enrich your lives and your insights with multiple experiences.
9. Do not get disheartened
What may be an insight for you may not be an insight for the client or your boss and they will tell you so. Mentally file it away as a learning – after all you are building dots, and don’t allow it to drag you down.
10. Lastly, remember Insights are rare and thin on the ground
If it was so easy to find them, we wouldn’t be searching so hard for them and there would be a lot more insights. As a client once told me, “If I get one or two things that make me think, I think it is an insightful report!”
This blog post is written by Asha Ganesan Sen, Insight Consulting Partner & Sector Leader – Shopper & Retail, Brandscapes Worldwide
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