This week, the Future Foundation is launching a new report entitled the Future of Insight, to which I can largely claim authorship. The findings and analysis are based on a business-to-business study that we conducted ourselves as part of a business overhaul and repositioning as a newly-independent and now global organisation that has resulted in the company’s recent rebranding – with a new emphasis on what we do, rather than what we are – thus the strap-line Providing
Clarity, Reducing Risk, Inspiring Creativity. Reading through the notes that my colleagues had made of the interviews they conducted, as well as the verbatim comments from over 40 senior insight and research professionals (both clients and non clients) I was struck by some significant movements that have occurred in our marketplace over the las
t five years – which have really changed the face of the whole game. By the way, we make no apology for using the term ‘Insight’ – whilst it may be widely over-used as Nick Johnson noted recently, we feel that it is a term that is worth inhabiting, redefining and using, both to describe a process and the result – what many respondents called the ‘AHA’ moment.
The report clearly gives more detail on all of this, but for now there are five key points that spring forward as suitable material for this blog, which I hope will whet reader’s appetites and generate some responses. Does this accord with your experience? Anyway, here goes:
- Insight has become the umbrella term for all the functions within the business that are responsible for creating a comprehensible and usable view of the customer and interpreting what this means for future business opportunities. As such it has become central to all areas of operation but particularly marketing, communications, new product development and most critically, innovation.
- Insight teams are increasingly influential and important within organisations, with more senior management representation reaching Board level – particularly in marketing communications businesses where Insight has become the life blood of planning and creativity. Where other functions have suffered as result of the recent recession, Insight has been relatively resilient, although like all areas of business it has to make the most of existing investments. We argue, that to make the most of this development, Insight professionals need to step forward and become Champions for the cause – constantly emphasising the value and use of the work they do and the inspiration they can provide.
- The work of the Insight team has changed beyond recognition. They are now expected not just to report what is going on, as the Market Research function once did, but to provide strong analysis, guidance and interpretation. New skills are required, and multiple sources of ideas and inspiration are needed, way outside the familiar territories of quantitative research surveys and focus groups. Ethnography, co-creation, collaboration, on-line communities and a plethora of trend sources are all part of a richer tapestry available.
- One of the most important skills required of Insight teams now is the ability to communicate its Insights effectively to key internal and external audiences, and in order to do this a wide range of techniques and tools are in use, but with more emphasis on new delivery methods (podcasts, emails and the like) and live debriefs, workshops and so on. The key is engaging other staff in the value, meaning and application of the flow of Insight being generated. More and more innovative approaches are being tested week by week. It would be interesting to hear what people find the most effective in their business.
- More and more, in order to stay ahead, and deliver real value by maximising Innovation and growth, based on customer knowledge and the ability to anticipate future needs, the Insight function has to become like an essential ‘think tank’ within the organisation – creating an intellectual framework and a view of the future within which new research, ideas and sources can be evaluated, incorporated and communicated. This implies a higher ground position, a stronger leadership, and greater influence on the future operation of the business. Once think tanks were the preserve of the political elite, vying for a greater influence on government and policy – now with business stepping forward economically and in delivering the Big Society, it is essential that the ability to think is internalised to create competitive advantage.
To access a copy of the report please email Lynne Taylor at email@example.com