Enterprises today rely on big data, and there’s an increasing amount of it available to consult. Yet, while many research teams do a good job of collecting information about industry trends, competitors and customers, they don’t always do as well communicating and disseminating that knowledge to internal teams.
Differences between Research and Insight
Let’s begin by distinguishing between research and insights. Research is more organized, factual, and statistic based. Feedback Ferret’s Sonia Sparkes describes it as “the ‘WHAT’ of customers and markets.” On the other hand, insights, are “the ‘WHY’ of customers and brands.” Researchers are tasked with investigating to collect information. To develop insights, though, we draw on previous experience (read: historical data), subject matter expertise, and a deep understanding of human behavior.
Put simply, research delivers data while insights deliver a narrative.
Delivering Insight to an Internal Audience
Researchers are typically good with gathering data. That’s what drove them to become researchers in the first place. They enjoy asking questions — whether its through quantitative or qualitative research — and gaining knowledge and facts.
The next step, though, is delivering insights to an internal audience. After all, the goal of the information is to find solutions to problems, understand customer pain points, identify opportunities and more. This requires more than simply reporting the research findings. This demands analyzing and understanding the information and offering recommendations driven by the data. This demands internal storytelling by the research team to fuel a smarter, stronger brand.
Insights add a fresh layer to the research. But not every observation is a true insight. And there’s the rub for the research team. Making sense of the data and uncovering the “actionable insight” requires work.
Becoming an Insights Engine
As noted in “Building an Insights Engine,” in the Harvard Business Review: “What matters now is not so much the quantity of data a firm can amass but its ability to connect the dots and extract value from the information.”
The HBR authors propose seven key characteristics related to insights engines. Top performers:
- Synthesize the data
- Give insight groups independence from other functions
- Play a role at all key planning stages
- Emphasize collaboration
- Embrace experimentation
- Imagine the future
- Take an action-oriented approach
One more attribute they shared? The ability to communicate the research insights through engaging narratives. The article uses Unilever as an example of an organization that has moved away from “fact-filled” talks to more Ted-style presentations or other experiential approaches.
Instead of relying only on written reports to deliver research outputs, here are a few ideas to engage internal audiences:
- Blogs can be a more accessible means of educating internal audiences
- Posting summary boards in a common office area
- Short videos
- Workshops allow more people to engage with the findings and build on the insights
Data is powerful, but story resonates with an audience on another level entirely. Meaningful stories which have a personal impact will always be more persuasive than a data dashboard.
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