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Insight Is Not Dead, But Needs An Energy Boost!

Nick Johnson (Volante Research) sparked some good debate with his “Insight is dead” article. Anthony Tasgal (POV, a brand, communications and training consultancy) fired back with “Insight –buried alive?” .  Others weighed in, and now it’s …

Nick Johnson (Volante Research) sparked some good debate with his “Insight is dead” article. Anthony Tasgal (POV, a brand, communications and training consultancy) fired back with “Insight –buried alive?” .  Others weighed in, and now it’s Cambiar’s turn!

Both articles have great quotes, such as Nick’s “A two-hour meeting that consists of a researcher reading a deck of 80 PowerPoint charts and then fielding a few questions is a very poor way to turn research into decisions” (amen!).  But he also says “Insight managers have so much information coming at them that insight itself has ceased to be an issue”, and here he is totally off the mark (IMHO).  I like Anthony’s “Insight should be seen as a process, a way of working and thinking rather than merely an object that can be picked up and counted”.

What’s been missing from the debate is a framework to think about insight.  I organize it into three parts:

  • What is meaningful Insight?
  • What are the necessary conditions for Insight?
  • What practices enhance Insight productivity?

What is Meaningful Insight?

I break this into four components:

  • New knowledge or a new understanding that connects to a business outcome
  • Brought about by thinking outside our comfortable paradigms

The next two bullets make the insight meaningful

  • Communicated effectively in the context of synthesized information and knowledge of the business
  • That influences organizational behavior and creates business impact

In other words, meaningful insight leads to a “holy s**t!” reaction from the client that changes the way the organization thinks and acts.

What are the Necessary Conditions for Insight?

  • Insight must influence behavior – or else it is just nice to know
  • This will only happen if it is communicated effectively, connecting at an emotional level
  • For this to happen, communication must be in context (i.e. a product of synthesized information and business understanding)

What Practices Enhance Insight Productivity?

  • An environment that encourages and rewards curiosity and creativity
  • Immersion and synthesis
  • Collaboration
  • Storytelling
  • Ownership.  The researcher’s job doesn’t end when the presentation is finished – it just moves to the phase of making change happen!

One final thought.  If this sounds hard, it is!  Meaningful insight doesn’t happen when it’s left to one person to do while crunching the PowerPoint deck.  It’s a process, and it’s a team sport.

Ian Lewis

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