The Anatomy of an Insight?

August 19, 2012

Anatomy of an Insight

I like frameworks.  They simply show how things fit together.  Back in the early 2000’s I developed what I thought was a kind of “system model” of the components of an insight.   I have used this in my work, when I am needing to go back to basics and re-evaluate existing information and research, looking for a new take on the old.

It’s purpose is to explain the dynamics behind the creation of new perspectives and deeper understanding.

All four elements need to be present in a kind of  “Insight System”

1. Context – Time, Place, Players, Resources. The context holds within it 3 interacting elements

2. Knowledge – Capacity to Act effectively

3. Pre occupation (the Itch) – The goal being pursued. Has a current reality and a desired state, creating tension

4. Attention (the moment) – The thing that is being focussed on in concious (5-7 elements of information)

If you conciously make changes in any of these 4, the others will be affected. If the change is strong enough it will create a one way re-structuring of perception leading to a new insight.

Do you find this useful?


Bringing Good Insights to Life – An Ad man’s view

August 19, 2012

Phil Phil Dusenberry of BBDO the ad agency has commented in 2005 on insight in the context of advertising creative in Fast Company

I have snipped some of his comments (and added my own reaction), as I think they have relevance to subjects and contexts in business beyond advertising.


“In the advertising business, a good idea can inspire a great commercial. But a good insight can fuel a thousand ideas, a thousand commercials.” 

– >  Insights are platforms for a stream of ideas and actions

“In a business world bedeviled with the problems of differentiating yourself from the crowd, moving the needle and selling enough stuff to have a measurable impact, telling the world you’ve arrived, fighting off or attacking the competition, and establishing or improving an image, insights are essential. They’re as essential to the budding entrepreneur as they are to the master marketers at Nike. Insights are what will let you stay in business, build market share, open new income streams, cement relationships with old customers, and attract new ones.”

–  > Sounds like insights are pretty important things in many contexts

“How do you go from an idea that might make a good ad to an insight that reshapes a business for a generation? Let your gut guide you. This is what customers do, but beyond that, it’s the most trustworthy meter for measuring the power of an insight. If you laugh, it’s funny. If you cry, it’s moving. If you feel a jolt of any kind, it’s breaking through the clutter. When you don’t feel it in your gut, chances are no one else will, either.”

– > Using your gut to measure the power of an insight, maybe this creates power and passion.

“You have to be optimistically patient. Insights and great ideas don’t come to you with clockwork precision, perfectly timed to suit your needs when you snap your fingers. They come at their own pace, and you have to patiently wait for them. If you have had useful insights in the past, you will have them again in the near future. I can’t say when exactly, but they will come.”

->  suspend judgement and be comfortable with ambiguity, giving time for insights to emerge. Be brave, get some air cover to give you the time.

“I call it “optimistic patience.” Stay at your desk and be patient. There is no rational reason to think that you are blocked (whatever that means!), that you have dried up, that you have used up your full quota of good ideas (as if there is a quota). You simply have to keep scratching and clawing and groping for the answers — and trust that they will come. The only thing you can’t do is rush the process, or grab on to the first idea that pops into your head because you’re in a hurry.”

“You don’t ordinarily find advertising insight in the hearts of the employees who work for the client. You find it in research and marketing data. You find it in the CEO’s statements. You find it in throwaway comments in meetings. You find it in customer complaints.”

-> Insights are found/created from data, leadership and chance connections of ideas…but you need to be able to be open to receive them!


All our yesterdays….all our futures?

August 19, 2012

I revisited my Ecademy.com account today (I was a member from the late 1990’s) and recovered some of my postings  from back in 2006.

One made reference to  a contribution I had made to Bill Jensen’s Simplerwork book when Bill asked in 1998 for thoughts on the biggest trends over the coming 2-3 years to put in his book.   The book in fact was an early example of “crowdsourcing”.

Whilst my predictions did not happen in that short timescale,  I was fascinated to see how prescient I seemed to have been, even if, even now, they are still not fully here.  Is “consumer engagement”  a “human systems” point of view?   Do have “empathic marketing” yet?

Business trends in next 2-3 years, global and local. 

My suggestions are:
1. A breaking down of boundaries between organisations and an increase in cooperation between organisations to leverage brand values and corporate assets and competencies.

2. Growth of virtual global networks of individuals sharing information and knowledge leading to accelerated creativity and experimentation.

3. Growing irrelevance of static, linear planning processes inside companies and growth in scenario “wind tunnel” learning, to cope with unpredictability and complexity of global and local environments

4. Hierarchical structure in organisations becoming liabilities as need to become responsive to changing customer demands increases. Will cause stress for those who manage by hands off delegation, but relished by the leader who is with their people in the trenches. Leadership by consent.

5. Fragmentation of marketing audiences making mass marketing approaches less effective. Businesses that responds with “empathic marketing” (ie. stand in their users’ shoes) will anticipate the future better. Empathic marketing will be built from “deep consumer understanding”, goes beyond “relationship marketing” — which tends to be purely transactional — and sees the consumers’ world from a “human systems” perspective.

Is community building part of empathic marketing?


Making Complexity simple and not Complicated

May 29, 2011

Simplicity and being simple has become a commonly heard mantra in marketing. But what does this really mean. I started thinking about this and arrived at the thought that there is a distinction to be made between COMPLEX and COMPLICATED

COMPLEX is a fact – means many factors, ideas, pieces of information inter-twined, requires thought to see the patterns, at first sight it seems intelligible…The challenge in a world getting faster and demanding fast fixes is this takes time and effort.

COMPLICATED is making something be, or appear, more complex than is needed.  Corporate processes and communication methods often do this to us.

But if something is in reality complex why do people not want to recognise this?  Often I think people criticize things they do not get as  complicated/complex because a

  1.  It’s an easy way to avoid having to think about something (they  are happy to stay ignorant)
  2. It means they have no responsibility in the communication – it’s your problem (they are happy to be arrogant)
  3. They don’t want to or know what questions to ask to understand it (they need education)

Making something SIMPLE means presenting the information and COMPLEXity in an order, and at a level, that tells a story that the audience can understand.  To understand the audience, and what they are trying to achieve, is therefore key.  That means seeing the world from their point-of-view.  If you fail do this you produce material that is seen as complex and complicated.

Personally, I have to work constantly on being SIMPLE, simply because I like exploring the complex, and that means getting into the detail before “surfacing” simple, the patterns and structures that drive the apperent complicated relationships.

It’s arguably easy and quite quick to write 50 slides, BUT it is less easy and more time consuming to turn this into 2 charts that distil the essential point to be made and relevant….but maybe that is the added value.


Linkedin Discussion Groups : how to stimulate deeper longer conversations

May 14, 2009

Questions lie at the heart of finding insights.

Over the past month I have asked several questions on Linkedin discussion groups and noticed something interesting.  I think the 80:20 rule seems to be playing out.  It looks like 20% of discussion generate 80% of the posts.

Before I began posting I looked at the types of discussion subjects that generated the most posts, and used this as a guide to crafting my own questions.   On one discussion (Insight Interest Group) [You will need to join to see ]  I asked :

What would you say are the characteristics of an “actionable” insight statement?

Articulating the essence of an insight is a key step to getting it acted upon inside an organisation.

And there are many alternative ways to express the meaning you are trying to capture.

What kind of criteria list might be used in assessing and judging a statement that will give it the best chance of being acted upon by people in the business.

Are there any idea structuring statements templates, that can be used to help capture and then compare statements?

Who should be responsible for judging the quality of the insight statements anyway?

Is a statement enough…what other aspects are needed to increase success rates?

We are now 14.05.09 over 200 posts long and still going strong.  This compares to comments in the 20’s for most of my other posts (though even this is pretty good imo)

Its  “success”, I thin,  is because it draws people in and creates an expectation that they will learn something.

This made me think if I could create any guidelines for getting a conversation going…and keeping it going on Linkedin Groups.

These are my thoughts :

  1. Stop before you post and plan : what do you want to happen.  Veiled/clumsy sales pitches have very low comments.
  2. Research your audience : think what might be on their minds in their work  and make the post relevant and encouraging. You will know you have hit the spot when someone says “Great question, post, subject”.
  3. Provide context for the posting : help them understand why you are interested in the subject. Explain where you are coming from, what is making you post, why its important to raise.
  4. Avoid general and closed questions : I think these create a “cant be bothered” response. People will not look if they expect not to find something…if your posting promises interesting content they will be curious and look and maybe even contribute.
  5. Nurture your post : Monitor responses and feedback your own inputs and explain how content has made you think…give more than an opinion.  Show interest in your post and how people are responding to it.
  6. Think people in the dialogue as a “mini-community” :  use their names in responses, encourage, ask extra questions, shape add and respond.
  7. Plan for the next Discussion : look for ways to create a new post to begin a new subject, based on areas and subjects that run tangentially to the posts subject. this also gives opportunities to cross post between subjects.
  8. Summarise : when you see some consensus or ideas make and post a short summary ” Looking at this thread,  I can see 5 main points/themes 1….2.   etc.  This helps newcomers to see where you are up to,  provides an overview, and creates impetus for new contributions.  People get a second wind.
  9. Avoid obscure and tricksy phrases and terms : this limits your audience and puts them off. as its just too hard to think what it means!

Do let me know if this help extend the comments on posts you make on LinkedIn


“Babel Worksessions” : or how to overcome participant language skills in meetings designed to generate insight

March 27, 2009

Insights lie in the words and ideas we express and their connections . But what happens when you are in a meeting, or running one, where you have people with different mother tongues or levels of language competence? How does this affect the quality of insight you can generate?

I recently asked a question about this on a LinkedIn discussion group ( Consumer Insights Group) about the impact of mother tongue and uncovered some really useful insights about this from participants (for those in Linkedin you can see the thread here (thanks to all who contributed)

Here are my top-line take outs.  I will look for opportunities to use these in my work at Nokia.

  1. Start Local first : Where possible discover your insights in local language first…then translate.
  2. Local Moderator : Aim to use a good local speaking moderator,  someone who is familiar with local culture.  They can provide local examples.
  3. Get clear on Values behind insights : Don’t judge the differences in a culture around an insight – focus on understanding the values creating this.  Work through the differences.
  4. Use Insight statements: Use an English (or the  main work language) statement of the insight then translate it into local language applying your understanding of the local markets values and cultural norms.
  5. Prepare to take more time : there is a need to discuss and work through terms and definitions – structure in small exercises.
  6. Try and have a native speaker (or the “work” language”) in the session to be able to translate.
  7. Use visual methods over words : images and other visual representations of insight can be better than spoken word or written text.  this enables you to go deeper and explore symbology and metaphor.  It  encourages people to explain at their own speed what they mean.   This makes it more engaging and everyone can contribute.
  8. Get participants to bring images : make participants bring an image, related to the insight subject to the session, and have them explain them. Everyone gets a turn and explains their thinking in their time.
  9. Pre-work is very important : give people time to think and prepare for the session.  Set pre-reading and use “workbooks” to record thoughts in own language can be helpful.  Can then be translated if need as record.
  10. The overall Insight for me is that to be serious about including everyone of mixed language ability (be it consumers, or people in the company)…you should take more time and prepare more.

Synthesis over analysis – Insights from 1984

March 24, 2009

I was browsing a friend’s bookcase and saw Megatrends by John Naisbitt.  It was written back in 1984 and I was intrigued to see what the big trends were thought to be back when I was just leaving Uni.

One quote caught my eye calling for “synthesis over analysis” :

In a world where events and ideas are analysed to the point of lifelessness, where complexity grows by quantum leaps, where the information din is so high we must shriek to be heard above it, we are hungry for structure.

…things have not changed much.