No Virginia, there are no insights #MRX


Surprisingly, researchers continue to debate the concept of insights. We  can’t agree amongst ourselves about what they are. However, other than throwing a magic 8 ball at a dataset, the only way to ensure that your research project will indeed discover an all important insight is to give your employees titles like “Lead Insight Developer,” “Insights Manager,” or “Chief Insight Officer.” You see, if the word insight is in your title, then you obviously deal only in insights.

But seriously folks, when was the last time you honestly and truly found an insight in your research? When did you last find a result that was so surprising, so unexpected, so unusual, that it absolutely deserved to be called an insight?

Does every survey project generate insights? I doubt it. Every focus group? Likely not. Every social media research project? Absolutely not. I’m under no false impressions here. I suspect that in most cases, the best research does is to confirm hypothesis we already knew or put into numbers what our intuition had not yet put into words.

So enough already with the debate. Stop demanding to see insights in every research project. Turn off your unrealistic expectations and turn on your reality cap. Numbers are numbers, data are data, and insight is, well, let’s cross our fingers and hope we see one every few months.

8 responses

  1. Hi Annie, I am completely aligned with your thinking here. The sheer pressure to find insights where none exist is excruciating! That said, just because there are no insights in the data set, doesn’t mean that research can’t produce insights. The best research projects that I’ve been involved with led to either an intelligent discussion among the client’s stakeholders or a full-blown ideation/action planning session. In both of these scenarios, genuine business insights were the result. When research is used as a tool to spur actual thinking, magical things happen.

    1. Completely agree. I think intelligent discussion is a great outcome. We often expect magical insights to just jump out of nowhere where in fact, a discussion with accurate data is most beneficial.

  2. Perhaps routine research and tracking studies do not reveal insights, because the questions themselves are well understood.

    However, I believe that when a client is exploring an area they do not understand well, I can virtually guarantee insights if we collaborate on the methodology to be used. Will it be a game changing insight that solves all their problems? Maybe not. Will they feel they have gained new insights into their target? Absolutely.

    The path to insight is to ask big questions. Small questions can only lead to small answers, or confirmations.

    Not sure we totally disagree here, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to find insights in most of my projects.Perhaps not news to me, but they will be insights to the clients.

    1. I think that often clients know their category/brand so well that they already have an idea of what they expect to find. That’s what makes insights so difficult to find.

  3. Great point, Annie! Like most buzzwords, the definition of insight seems to be shifting. There seem to be a lot of people overlooking the fact that a data-driven answer to a question is not an insight. It is the outcome of intentional pursuit of the solution.

    If you want insight, you really need to combine solid data with a health dose of content expertise and creativity. And that is a hard combo to find!

    1. Darn tootin! Without expert category knowledge AND expert methodology knowledge, insights are just something to wish for. I’d rather wish for chocolate for breakfast.

  4. So, is that an insight about insights?

    1. Insightful comment Ray! 🙂

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