Fight your inner insight instinct

Like most, I admire my dad (Pete) immensely, not just because of his personal achievements but also the way he has operated his business. He has been a corner shop owner for 40 years and has worked from 4am-6pm/364 days a year. As a youngster I’d help-out in the shop often and it was very apparent that my dad ran his business on one key principle – ‘The customer is always right’. Gaining feedback from his customers on all sorts of shop keeper challenges was always the primary objective. I often wonder did my passion for customer-centric strategies in business stem from my times behind the shop counter? Maybe that’s why I started my career in market research, wanting to know what consumer really thought?

Insight professionals that come from a market research background are continuously driving a customer first agenda, usually grounded in the collection of consumer feedback and therefore probably believe strongly in the statement ‘The customer is always right’.  Those from a data analytics background however use a foundation of past behavioural data and therefore probably believe strongly in the statement ‘History repeats itself’. Is this fundamentally what makes these two species of insight professionals so different? It doesn’t matter which of these is your background you need to always question these statements. Do we challenge our basic instinct enough and ask ourselves ‘Could customers be wrong’, and ‘History does not always repeat itself’?


In my experience, when these different species of insight professionals work together, you nearly always get the best insights and strategies. However, when these worlds clash for the first time it can be difficult, as there is a language barrier to get over at first. Sometimes, you might even get a tussle for project leadership and disagreement on the process needed to solve the business question, despite having the same end goal. I must admit over the years this behaviour has slowly been in decline. So how can you fight your insight instinct?

  1. Take an Interest

Really immerse yourself in the other insight discipline. How many of you market researchers know exactly how to build a propensity model and how many of you data analysts have been to a focus group? We need to avoid silly questions like: “Are you sure 4000 sample is enough?” or “what is the ROI of that focus group?” [you will be surprised how many senior insight people I still hear saying this]. I’m not saying that we do a mass job swap, but what I am saying is ‘take more of an interest’.

  1. Challenge your foundation

Most importantly don’t go straight to your natural place of insight birth to solve your business questions. When thinking about how you might solve a business challenge really think about both these statement in equal measures. Almost every time you will conclude that you need to capture data from both perspectives for the best results.

My dad’s principle worked well for him but it’s important for us insight professionals to always question these two key statements ‘Customer is always right’ and ‘History repeats itself’.

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