Insight. It’s a buzzword isn’t it? Can you remember the last time you were in a meeting and the word wasn’t used? Tough isn’t it? (And I’ll admit, I’m probably as guilty as the next person for over-using the word insight). As a word, insight is thrown around liberally to describe all sorts of things: knowledge, facts, ideas, hypotheses (and possibly actual insights, whatever they are!). Insights seem to have become the holy grail of marketers and market research professionals. We need to uncover insights! But what are insights? Are we too obsessed with them? Could our obsession with insights be a bad thing?
What are insights and what does one look like anyway?
Hunting for insights is a hard job (if you’d like some help on how to find insights, check here) – and probably not made easier by the fact that we seemingly can’t even agree on what an insight is. So what are insights? Some people use the word for any fact or data that is shared with them. I often here “thanks for the insights” when all that was shared was information. Others treat the word ‘insights’ as a holier than holy – something rare and special, with standards that are almost impossible to reach. Such professionals scoff at anything that doesn’t fundamentally alter our perception of space and time (yes, I read an article once which tried to define insights and used Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as an example. Yes – Einstein was insightful, but that is a really high bar to set! If we lowly consumer goods marketers are aiming to match one of the most visionary humans ever, we’re going to have a frustrating time!
Neither of these extremes take us very far towards helping in our hunt for ‘insights’. Across the Internet definitions of insight abound – yet as a marketing community we struggle to define exactly what an insight it. Surely, not knowing what something looks like significantly hampers the process of hunting for it. Imagine hunting for a deer without knowing what a deer looks like!
Stop looking for insights
I could give my own definition of insight but that’s not really the point of this post. My question is whether the obsession with insights – with the idea that we’re trying to create something almost magical, is actually getting in the way of what we’re really here to do.
My good friend Steve Needel puts it thus. “Market Research isn’t here to create insights. Market Research is here to enable businesses to make better decisions”. – And by that I assume he means decisions which add value to businesses.
A different way to look at ‘insights’
So here is a different way of looking at ‘insights’ (yes I know, we’re unlikely to stop using that word!)
What are insights? Is what I have an insight? My advice is to stop worrying about insights. Stop obsessing about whether what you are delivering is ‘insightful’. Worry about whether it creates value. Simply put:
- does the information you are providing enable better decisions?
- Does it create clarity on what needs to be done to achieve the business results?
I’m pretty sure that if you can help the business make better decisions, if those decisions contribute to the achievement of the businesses goals, then you’re going in the right direction. Whether or not it is an insight is completely beside the point.