How does your organisation record insights?

Recording insights - that’s easy, isn’t it?  You just upload a copy of the final presentation or one page summary for each project, and job done!

Well, no. Actually, that’s not enough.

Effective Insight teams do not just file documents; they review all the insights and interesting facts which have emerged, and find ways to crystallise them such that they are not lost but retained for future use.

The focus of many Insight teams tends to be on running insight generation projects – because these are highly visible, and their completion is eagerly anticipated by stakeholders.  We can find ourselves constantly under pressure from stakeholders to move from one issue to the next. So we tend to breathe a sigh of relief when a project is delivered and move on hastily to the next one. We fail to stop and consider what has been discovered that should be captured and added to the store of knowledge. 

While most Insight teams do have processes in place to store and retrieve the key outputs for each project, many teams admit they don’t always do this seemingly straightforward task consistently and well. The effort involved means that fulfilling this basic requirement can be mistakenly equated to recording insights. But these two tasks are not the same thing. If project outputs do not pinpoint clearly all the potentially valuable new insights which have been unearthed – and generally they do not - then this must be undertaken as an additional exercise.

Project outputs usually focus on the insights relevant to the specific business issue which triggered the project. But sometimes a project unexpectedly also generates insights relevant to other topics. These should be identified and recorded too. 

What issues need to be addressed if insights are to be identified and recorded properly? 

  • That all new insights are identified and recorded, not just those which address the immediate business question
  • That all the key topics to which new insights might be relevant have been identified
  • That all relevant insights can be retrieved when someone asks, “what do we know about topic x?”

How do you address these issues? 

It's partly about having good systems and processes in place. The IMA’s research shows that basic approaches such as a shared drive, or simply a catalogue of Insight projects in a spreadsheet, are still the most common. However, some Insight teams have gone further and use specialist knowledge management software to create a digital library or (in some cases) an online Insight ‘portal’.   

The key thing to appreciate is that recording insights is not the same as storing Insight project outputs.   

Many Insight teams have systems which are designed to simply list and store project outputs.  But project outputs do not always capture every new insight, and those which are captured often buried in long reports or slide decks.  A one page summary system does help to pinpoint insights quickly but it won’t necessarily record all new insights because the content is still focused on the business issue being addressed by the project. 

What’s the solution? 

The first part of the solution is about how insights are expressed.  The second part is about how insights are logged.

Firstly, it is good practice to crystallise important new insights in a single sentence.  Brevity makes insights easier to digest and remember.  It also stimulates the “so what?” question. This helps to identify whether the new insights could make a real difference to the organisation.  For example:

Product x drives 55% of revenue but only 5% of profit because it attracts rate chasers

95% of young women are self-conscious about their appearance when they play sport

Secondly, it is good practice to create a centralised log in which new insights are held - until they are captured in big picture overviews of key topics. One approach to this is a list held in a spreadsheet, with room to classify insights by key topics and to note the source. Another approach is to list new insights using collaboration software. The benefits include automatically notifying others when a new entry is made and the facility to record thoughts and comments on new insights. 

Finally, the most customer-focused organisations encourage those outside the Insight team to log new insights as well – with an appropriate review process in place, of course.

So think about it.  Are you an Insight ninja with access to pithy, usable insights on any given topic at your fingertips?  Or are you just storing project outputs like a librarian? There is a big difference. How do you want to be known? 

Further information

If you would like to explore this topic in more detail, then the IMA has published a best practice report on Insight Knowledge. Please click here for more information.

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