Perspectives Episode 04 – What is an insight?

What is an insight?

Welcome to Episode 04 of Perspectives!

We saw @InSites talking about what an insight was, and we thought we’d riff on the subject and ask our contributors the same question. In the fourth Perspectives episode, we bring together people in the insights industry to ask ‘What is an insight?’. We also saw Research Live pick up and blog about it here in their ‘What is an ‘insight’? – industry leaders respond‘ blog post.



Written Commentary

Annie Pettit – Market Research Methodologist,, read more on her blog.

Ah yes, the never-ending question in our business. I have a fairly simple yet vague definition of insight. It’s anything that turns on a lightbulb over your head. It’s that piece of knowledge that makes you sit straight up or jump out of your seat or pop your eyes out of their socket. The one that makes you go “OH MY GOD” or “HOLY SHIT.”

True insight is rare. You’re really lucky if you get even one out of each research study you run.

If you think about it, we go into most research projects with ideas, hypotheses, expectations. We create a data collection tool, collect data, run the analyses, and confirm what we hypothesized all along. We just have the data to back it up now.

From my perspective, insights were never an idea or hypothesis or expectation. They come out of nowhere and smack you in the face.

The trick with an insight is to capture it before it dissipates. To realize that what is running through your mind is magic and that you need to take note of and write it down.

If you love it, don’t set it free. Catch that puppy and write it up. If you do set it free, you’ll never be able to turn it into an actionable outcome.

Excerpts from the vlog

We would look at a finding, or information, how that leads to an insight, and then what the implication is for a client. So, a finding would be a particular fact. For example, not many people are going in store towards the end of the purchase cycle, but they are going online. And an insight would be derived from a number of these pieces of information or facts. So, we would be finding out that not only were people going online, but they were looking for a very specific product, and the insight would be that actually, the battle for which brand you’re going to buy has already been won before the end of the purchase journey, because people know what they want to buy, and they’re just looking online for the best deal. @FionaMESH

An insight is any piece of information that will fundamentally change the way you think about your consumer your brand or your competitor. @SiamackSalari

The most important thing is that it’s not always a real a-ha moment or Einstein finding. Often times an insight can just be a unique view of a characteristic or a perspective that’s seen from a very different angle. And that just allows somebody to show the issue from a different viewpoint. And I think when you get that and when you do suddenly say my goodness, yes that’s an interesting way of looking at it that’s how we can find the real value in research. @Finn01

If I were chatting with a seasoned market research professional I would actually talk more about what we do with our insights and how we can assist our clients in furthering there initiatives after project delivery. In other words once a project is delivered ensuring that the results are delivered in a way that they’re embraced and can be cascaded throughout the organisation @baileighallen

I would define it is essentially a consumer insight is what we learn about people as it relates to different brands, products, services, etc., by talking to them, serving them or otherwise monitoring their behavior @Kerryhecht

First of all you need to make sure that your insight helps the client at least to better understand the customer in some way, and that you’re at least explaining a human behaviour. I think another thing about an insight is that at some point, it’s gotta become subjective, it requires the researcher to give their personal point of view and personal take on what they’ve discovered. Another aspect of an insight is that it’s gotta be resonant, it’s gotta be true to a certain extent, but not so obvious that it’s just a benign finding. But it’s certainly gotta go beyond what a person has said within a survey. You’ve got to get beyond just what people have said rationally. @andybuckers

I think our job as researchers is to test the facts and find out the truth, and make sure that our clients have actionable insights, something that they can do something with, something that helps them make decisions for the future good of their business and their customers, because that’s really important. It’s got to change the business. @adrubena

Every person is unique and their insights are unique so it’s not a fact. Even though you could argue that my truth is my truth, the people’s perception is the reality so we look at insights the same way. Insight is just someone’s perspective on some things that’s happened around them. We then take hundreds or thousands of insights from individuals put those together and create really meaningful insights. @rickwest01

Something that somebody discovers that transforms the business to act differently. @winifredatwell

It’s really about when we use qualitative methods to dive and dig deep into people’s lives and really probing them, asking them questions in creative ways and unexpected ways looking for those moments of friction and contradiction that might unveil something that we didn’t necessarily know going in. I might be a bit controversial with this, but I don’t think insights can actually be tested or measured or you know researched, ultimately. I think all you can really do with an insight is take some form of action on it or find inspiration from it. @bengrill

It’s about seeing elements within data that are also not obvious, that are not simply on its face of the given nature. @dbrowell

Insight is that bit extra. Insight tells you how to do it. And that how should be in the context of the big pictures. And by that I mean consumer attitudes, I mean business culture, I mean the political environment at the time. So for me insight can only be done by a person. It can only be done by a person who has had direct involvement and understanding of the project. Liz Harrison

It sometimes provides an explanation to a problem but it really needs to be practical, relevant, and commercially interesting. So, insight really is all about being inquisitive and it’s about being creative. Getting into that information, mining that data, it’s about taking analysis that one step further, and forgetting about what you already know or what you expect to see in the numbers, and really looking for something new and something unrealised. Mike Jeanes

I think people who are new to research probably think, at least initially, that every time they do a study they’re going to have this big wow moment. And hopefully there are a lot of big wow moments, but not every big wow moment is an insight. @mindsparklab

What it’s all about, in this world that we live in, we drowning in data, big data is a theme, but actually the key for insight is deep data, it’s about getting that storyline together, it’s about bringing together, just to get that compelling piece of all the different datasets that we understand, to really deliver insight to our clients. @Nick_HagueB2B

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