What does it actually mean to ‘activate insight’?
This term has cropped up a lot recently, along with ‘insights empowerment’, and although we could probably take a good guess at what it means, it’s handy when someone just comes out and says:
Activating insight is the act of factoring in insights generated from market research into business plans, allowing insight to influence business decisions (both big and small), and letting it inspire organisation-wide change for the better.
So, now that we know what activating insight means, how can we ensure that we are making the most of this surge in activation popularity?
1. By making sure that the insights we generate are actually relevant to business and research goals
This is so important. Aligning research and business goals is step one in any research experience, because that ensures that business goals are at the very least considered in the crucial design stage of a research project; this will mean that the insights generated will be conducive towards obtaining overall business goals, as well as specific to achieving the goals of the research experience itself.
There are a number of positive effects that this goal alignment will have on the activation of insights; for one, the accurate relevance of the insights that this produces will mean that they will be directly actionable to the problem at hand, providing a straightforward course of action with no messing about; key decision-makers can take these relevant insights straight from the report and make better quality decisions at the speed of business, which is the perfect, most desired outcome of a research experience.
Insights and insight professionals by extension provide a better return on investment. And so for a second advocating reason, the relevance will produce an ROI that many decisions makers and stakeholders also find extremely desirable. The decisions that are made with the more relevant insights are more likely to have a directly successful outcome, and thus provide a better chance of a return on investment.
The results of the insights that have been created through the integration of business and research goals will affect all departments within the organisation; any affectation will obviously gain the attention of department heads and senior managers within those departments. This increased influence that the insights have over their departments and their own work will spur the heads on to pay more attention to the decisions that are being made, and will also want to have their say in how the insights are being actioned in those situations that will have consequences for their department.
2. Presenting the insights in a way that is engaging
So, with more employees paying attention to the relevant insights, we must find a way to keep their interest and their engagement! There is a gaping lack of innovation in this area, when actually, getting people involved and engaged with insights is probably one of the most crucial aspects of the research experience. But it is also the one aspect that insight professionals have also had the most issues with over the past few years.
Reporting insights isn’t about collating lots of graphs, data, and words into a PowerPoint anymore, like it was 20 years ago when the quantity of data within a report was the defining aspect of a quality report. Now, in order to keep the attention of senior stakeholders, insight professionals need to be storytellers, graphic designers, and a whole host of other skilled professionals as well in order to bring the insights to life for the c-suite; to make the insights real right in front of their eyes. What brings the insight to life and make it real for the audience is a mixture of depth (through context), stunning visuals, storytelling techniques, and stimulating interactivity.
Now, because of the lack of innovation, there are only a few options actually available to insight professionals at this time. The interactive PowerPoint report, which readers can take themselves through but still contains a good number of the same data tables, graphs, and visuals that they have seen for years now, is one of those options. Another two options are the video report and still infographic, where the visuals are the most engaging aspect, but the researchers dictate the pace and key insights that are displayed. These examples are great, but still not exactly cutting it when we need to truly stimulate and engage stakeholders in the insights.
At FlexMR, we are currently experimenting with a new form of qualitative insight reporting, through our Consumer Postcard Project, where we’re turning insights into interpretable art pieces. We are trying to find a way to shock decision-makers into truly engaging with insights, by stimulating their cognitive faculties as they discern what the image is about. Find out more about our project, and how you can get involved, here.
3. By democratising research, making it more accessible in-house
And finally, making sure that everyone within a business has access to market research is a huge step towards realising the full potential of insights.
Making research accessible and easy for all of the departments will encourage engagement within the research process itself, and this engagement within the research process itself will automatically lead to an engagement with the resulting insights. All departments will have questions that they need answers to in order to do the best work they can, and we have the means to provide them with much-needed insight. But how do we break down departmental silos and let insights move freely between teams?
When I said earlier about how the department heads would become more engaged with relevant insights that have the potential the change their work and department, this sentiment also applies to those who work in those departments underneath the managers.
This collective interest will activate a positive spiral of attention and curiosity in the insights generated and how they’re being put to use by decision-makers; this increased attention will lead to increased involvement within insight-based decision making, and then influence over the research experience itself with employees from all teams getting involved within market research and learning about the opportunities it presents to them. Getting the business involved in market research will then lead to more relevant and actionable insights being created on a daily basis and actioned upon in every team within the business.
Three Rules are Never Enough
If there is one thing you take away from this, it should be that there is nothing in this world that will guarantee the activation of insights after we hand the research report over to a client. However, these three (out of many) rules will hopefully be enough to start to make activation a more likely outcome. Gaining the true engagement of senior decision-makers in the research report and the insights contained therein is tricky, but through interactivity, research democratisation, and truly relevant insights, we can take three steps forward in the right direction towards the realisation of insight empowerment.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.