This week I added another word to the overused compilation: insights.
Everyone wants them, everyone has them. Interesting, because I'm wondering what happens to all that intelligence. Is it just poor execution, then? Word inflation aside, I think a first line of defense is to look the word up to see what it means.
Let's look at what happens when we define insight:
Ah, there are strings attached. Experienced researchers tell me that most companies are happy to generate up to five insights a year. An inflation filter, if I ever saw one.
- A piece of information, which fundamentally changes the way you think about your customer, product, or competitor;
- Cannot be called an insight unless it has resulted in measurable revenue.
Combine with the fact that most, if not all, companies want an answer now, or maximum in two weeks. How do you get to a depth of understanding sufficient to think differently about customers, products, or competitors in a way that leads to measurable revenue?
You guessed right, in smaller steps.
You could start buy looking at the things that are already sitting under your nose. I mean, look at them in the first place. You've got to observe to see. This could lead not to a new discovery, but to transforming the way you handle the old, predictable, and mundane.
Take for example a vacuum cleaner—your customer says "I can see what's clean, but I can't see what's dirty." But is your signal that you might need noise—create a noise feedback loop that tells the customer the vacuum cleaner is sucking dirt. Now the customer can hear the difference.
Talking about hearing. Play music in movies with me for a moment—you could ask "I can hear when a moment is good or when it's scary/bad in a score, but I can't hear when it's halfway." For simplicity, but here is still the signal... and you might need Ennio Morricone.
He was a great composer, a classically-trained conductor,
and trumpet player who wrote music in a wide range of styles.
Ennio Morricone died on Monday at 91.
You know his scores: from the Sergio Leone
films—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly the most influential—
to Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, for which
he won the best original score in 2016.
More than 70 award-winning films.
"The crisis" score (above) is from the movie The Legend of 1900.
The beautiful accords are repeatedly interrupted
by the bad note, the one that sounds
out of sync with the rest of the melody,
but makes it even more intense, beautiful, and memorable.
Roger Ebert's review says, like many Italian movies,
it's about what happens inside.
Here's the maestro directing Once Upon a Time in America
for the Italian Senate in Rome.
More about Morricone and his work here.
Ten of his scores here.
Make them see things in a new way is your first line of response. It's fast, could even be immediate, to get the ball rolling.
Yet, you're overlooking opportunity if you don't also go deep. Walk in your customers' shoes (which would be doubly fun if your customers were buying your shoes):
Find ways to bring people's reality and tensions to life for your decision makers to see. You can help people make new choices, once you understand them better.
- What's like to be them? What are their pain points?
- Do they contradict themselves? This could get interesting.
- Can you observe what people nearly do... yet don't?
But first you have to sell your ideas to management / your client. To make intelligence visible, and get buy-in, share your work in progress. Take it, literally, one step at a time:
I found this process empowering. Yes, it introduces variability and differences vs. a more efficient and buttoned down version where everything is perfect and you just do what's approved.
- make digests or lists of your topline research and any field work
- set up anticipation with questions-generating workshops, which could create demand for more
- arrange visuals of what you plan to dial into to have great conversations
- transfer ownership of any intelligence to your client... because once it's their idea, it gets done
But what it sacrifices in some speed, it gains in overall energy. Elevator or rabbit hole? Your metaphors may vary.
[more about the value of differences in the article at the bottom]
Ways of Looking:
Translating a lesson or set of ideas from one industry or practice to another is a learned art:
Added bonus: constancy is a valuable ally in uncertain times.
Translated into persistence, planning, systematic training, and mindset management, it can help you weigh how (or wait out until) you can make better decisions. Biology, like art, is an endurance game.
[more about games and uncertainty in the readings at the bottom]
“In love as in art,
constancy is everything.
I don't know if there is love at first sight,
or supernatural intuition.
I know that there are tenacity,
consistency, seriousness, duration."
- Ennio Morricone