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How did insight become such a buzzword, such a ‘Must-Have’ that research departments renamed themselves ‘Insight’ and research managers became Insight Directors?

Well, first off, insight sounds a lot more cool than data: a lot more like something you’d want to have…and this from a profession, which like accountancy, has rather less than a cool image. I speak of my gang, the Market Researchers.

However, just pasting up the I-word all over the walls, doors and websites of a bunch of hungry companies is not the same as knowing insight. In fact the true insight that arises from this commoditisation of the word suggests you need to look carefully at anyone who says they are an insight provider.

How do you do that, when by general agreement Insight is a ‘field of consciousness’ phenomenon – colloquially an ‘AHA’ moment? Surely anyone can have one?

Of course they can, but do they and will they on your behalf, on your brief and your time & money?

[NB There is no absolutely logical reason why talking to consumers should yield insight. Particulary if your product or service is in a low interest area. The consumers are unlikey to have any insights about it: they probably spend most of their time ignoring it, except when they need it.

Even if you work in something that has kudos; fashion, automotive, travel, there is no guarantee that insight will abound. Many of us just wear what other people wear, go where others go and drive what others drive. It may be an insight that identification is an important driver, but we all know that already. I wouldn’t want to pay thousands to be told that, ‘people copy people’.]

So, how do you know if your insight provider is any good? What can you do to find out?

It’s pretty straightforward. You ask. ‘How do you go about uncovering insight and putting yourself in the way of those ‘AHA’ moments?’

This is different from asking what is your data collection method; what you want to know is ‘how do you extract the deepest meaning from the data and use that to create new wisdom?’

If you get a blank face, it doesn’t mean your provider isn’t any good, but it could suggest that they don’t know how they do what they do. Which is a problem when they face an area they don’t have experience of or empathise with, like blokes working on make-up, or women working on power tools. [Yes, I know some blokes like make-up and some women like power tools, but I’m generalising to make a point].

If they don’t know how to explain or map what they do, they may have poor access to their own insight engine when faced with a new challenge.

In my next post I describe my Insight Engine, what it’s made of and how it works.

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues