Philosophy has been compared to ‘a blind man looking for a black cat in a dark room … which is not there’.
You could substitute ‘insight’ for philosophy. Insight is such a key ‘thing’ in research and marketing these days, that we are all looking for it and yet it is very hard to find.
The reason is that we are looking in the wrong place - for the wrong thing. To explain ...
I went to an AURA debate at the RAF Club, Piccadilly recently (co-sponsor, AQR). The debate was headlined ‘who killed insight’?
The RAF Club is a fantastic place, incidentally, where pint glasses have handles and men have striped ties and double vented blazers. And moustaches. For some reason, my mind drifted to David McCallum as the Invisible Man, apparently a 1970s TV series.
What if Insight (as a person) were a master of disguise, turning up as someone different in different places? Insight is only visible when it is ‘dressed appropriately’ according to the occasion and the company and the job in hand?
The debate consisted of four short talks from Christene McCauley, Global Consumer Planning Director of Diageo, Sinead Jeffries of Opinion Leader, Kathy Ellison, Head of Customer and Market Insight at Ecclesiastical and Rosie Campbell of Campbell Keegan.
My main takeaways from this most enjoyable session were that:
- Insight moves invisibly among us, loyal to nobody; it is not dead but there are serial attempts to kidnap it, often in a white van marked ‘client property’
- We should get to know our clients’ businesses better and trust our instincts more, if we are to befriend Insight more often
- More events like this debate would help, otherwise the cultural divide between client and agency could widen and we and Insight could become further estranged
But something was still bothering me. Something was not quite right. Could it be an insight …?
Obviously Insight is not a person. But neither is insight a ‘thing’. It’s a process. You might say that there is no such thing as ‘an insight’. There is only ‘insightful’.
This is not a new thought. The idea was discussed in the 2007 ESOMAR paper by Wendy Gordon and Nitasha Kapoor of Acacia Avenue. They quote Jeremy Bullmore who says “it is not the ‘what’ of insight but the ‘how’ that makes it valuable.”
Something which is insightful in a high potency way has an immediate clarity and call to action about it; a ‘guiding idea that excites and inspires’. Something truly insightful will get passed on, remembered and acted on, whereas a mere ‘insight’ will stay ‘stuck’ in a document as the property of the originator.
So, Insight, unmasked at last. Not a person, not a thing. Not even a cat.
But available to all of us, if we work hard enough.