Insights are useful truths that can change the way you do things. But what’s the difference between insights and plain ol’ boring research data? Mainly, insights are actionable, clear, not-obvious realizations that give you some kind of advantage…if you know how to use them.
Let’s talk about marginal, linear changes. Henry Ford supposedly said “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’” Ford knew that people only knew how to ask for changes in degrees, but they can’t know how to ask for a revolution.
Ford was right on the money. He, like Steve Jobs, knew what people needed, because he was creating something that met one of their basic needs. But what if you don’t know how to gather that insight, and you’re stuck making linear, marginal changes in price, service and quality? In this post, we’ll talk a bit about what insights are, and a little bit about what they do.
Three Things about Insight
An insight is always an unforeseen conclusion. If all your competitors know it, it’s not an insight.
An insight creates a change in the way you do things. In other words, it never tells you to try harder or do something more, instead, it inspires a change in point of view.
An insight creates strategic advantage by giving you a meaningful understanding of the data (often qualitative “data”). In other words, it turns data into specific meaning so you can act on it.
How You Get Insight
You need imagination to reach insight. You have to be able to connect things that other people can’t. And you’re doing it in a way that’s open, yet relevant: you’re open and actively listening, but you’re always coming back to the reason you’re doing the research in the first place.
Things that Prevent Insight Gathering:
- A rush to get an insight. You have to be emotionally disciplined to slow down, or just naturally curious.
- A lack of imagination. If you can’t entertain new possibilities or see them when they come up, you’re wasting your time.
- An inability to listen. If you can’t get people talking about what’s important to them, good luck coming up with anything new. They’ll quickly realize that you only hear what you want to hear.
The Most Straightforward Way to Gather an Insight
Ask open-ended questions of your customer, in a one-on-one setting and try to enter their world. It’s harder than it sounds if you’ve never done it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. There are other ways, but this is the most effective.
In summary, the best way to get an insight is to, first, know what you’re looking for. It’s a surprising discovery that changes the way you do things in a way that creates strategic advantage.