By Jeremy Hollow, Founder of Listen + Learn Research
BY BLENDING INTERNAL TEAMS AND DATA SOURCES, BUSINESSES CAN TRANSFORM ORDINARY INSIGHTS INTO TRUE BRAND WISDOM.
We’re lucky. When deciding how to improve our business, the data available to us has become both more abundant, and more diverse. For our familiar data sources (transactional, attitudinal), we’ve now got more, quicker and cheaper. For the new (social, visual, neuro, ‘things’), we’ve got different capabilities, techniques, and challenges. What’s more, technical innovation has opened the floodgates. For the first time, you don’t have to be rich, to be data rich. Modest investments can net you millions of new data points.
As a result, we’ve moved from having a few fountains of corporate knowledge, owned by established business units, to a much more voluminous and porous data environment.
ACCESS ISN'T KNOWLEDGE
…but not that lucky. We’re facing a new set of challenges, and it’s alluring to think that a tech-led approach will give us the simplicity we crave (“if we press this button, we’ll have all the answers we need”). But more tech isn’t the answer.
Because access to abundant and diverse data hasn’t nailed the central issue. Which is, there is no perfect answer. Life’s too complex, there are too many unknown unknowns. We have to accept risk within decision making, no matter how shiny the dashboard or beautiful the API.
One solution to this complexity is to treat decision making as a progression. A deliberate and considered development: from data (the right information at the right time) to knowledge (drawing the right conclusions from your data) to wisdom (turn this into a business advantage).
And it’s this, rather than the tech that’s the biggest challenge. It requires a vision, the leadership, and courage to see the potential, and a willingness to immerse yourself in a different perspective. But all too often new sources or ideas are seen as someone else’s thing; if they don’t fit in with business as usual.
A case in point is social media (which shares a lot of characteristics with other new data). Massively overhyped, people still struggle to make it work as a source of insight. This comes from a reluctance to try new things (especially if it’s something they don’t really get themselves), a bad first experience (there’s a reason social monitoring was rebranded as listening), a lack of internal skills or simply a lack of vision about the potential.
But, stop for a minute, what is social, really? It’s thousands of people talking about things that brands really want to know about. If it’s not working for an organisation, it’s not the fault of the data, but rather the tools, ambition and vision behind the attempt. Those who embrace the complexity of social (or other new ideas), working their way through with trial and error, get access to a completely new form of consumer insight (it is, after all, one of the only ways to get an unfiltered opinion) and are richer for it. Those that dismiss it, saying “it’s handled by our digital team” will be the poorer.
THE INSIGHT OPPORTUNITY
Let’s free data from business as usual. Let’s create a vision for progressing data into knowledge and onto wisdom.
No matter the size of your business, you can take a multi-layered approach to finding insight. We suggest teams:
• Carefully define the moment of change. What’s the strategic objective, who’s going to make it happen, what barriers need to be overcome?
• There’s always more than one thing you can do. Use the data you’ve got, supplemented by further targeted research to help you explore the field of opportunity. Find out what’s possible, what might work.
• Use these initial insights to help you find your direction and define a more comprehensive insight brief, proportionate to the opportunity.
• Blend your data (social, survey, transactional, contextual) to explore the whats, whys, hows and whos. Compare and contrast the findings from different sources to give your insights real depth.
• Test knowledge with wisdom, synthesise the results to provide unique opportunities that translate research into instructional execution.
BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN BUSINESS STRATEGY AND DELIVERY
Data suppliers (internal or vendors) all believe that they have the answer. They do, just not all of it. And, what’s more – this is just the first step in the journey. Tech’s great, and is getting better, but it’s a very long way from being fool-proof and completely comprehensive.
Instead, our attention should be on insight. Insight is the best bridge between strategy (our aims) and delivery (what we do). And true insight requires immersion in the data, in the case of social – the thoughts expressed by all those people using it. Done well, it’ll show you how best to invest your energy and what you actually need to do to make it happen.
And the best insight today comes from blending teams and sources; IT with Research, Sales with Operations.
Blur the lines between internal silos, don’t let knowledge become isolated. Because if you do, you’re never giving it a chance to progress into wisdom.