The Search for Insight
My definition of insight is the gathering of information and extraction of potentially actionable strategies. The information might be from a trend, a difference between geographies, consumption variations, changes in costs, unexpected downtime, etc. However, it comes from looking at both the data and information, and completing the sentence: ‘The data/information shows…, which means that we could/should…’ (a worthwhile step when you next develop the often-misused SWOT analysis). The ‘art’ of picking these out is based upon looking for comparisons, differences, irregularities – accessing competitor knowledge, using open questions, looking at the market in the broadest sense. In the end, the information becomes insight only once you determine you can act on it!
Peter Drucker’s (1982) statement still holds true: ‘What a business needs the most for its decisions, especially strategic ones, are data about what goes on outside it. It is only outside the business that there are results, opportunities, and threats’. The recent decision to discontinue the Airbus A380 passenger jet is a case in point. The manufacturer and its investors overruled the market realities of a desire for direct, low-fare and frequent flights that only smaller aircraft can provide. In the end, you cannot force a global market to accept products or services. So did Airbus’ strategy became misaligned due to a lack of insight or its interpretation?
This leads us to the conclusion that there are three conundrums that only effort, capability and experience can solve: Are you (1) asking the right questions, (2) getting accurate data and (3) understanding the answers? Setting yourself up for success means getting these outlined before you start on the quest for insight. Good hunting!