Fearless in insight

I am a big fan of the TV legal drama ‘Suits’. For those of you that have not seen it; it’s the TV show that Meghan Markle is best known for. The show’s main characters are Harvey and Mike who are hotshot lawyers, however Donna their personal assistant in the show is my personal favourite.

Donna is truly seen as an equal in the firm despite probably not being in the same pay bracket or holding a law qualification. Wikipedia describes Donna as ‘Extremely perceptive, armed with the knowledge of all the comings and goings at the (legal) firm and a razor sharp wit, Donna is admired and feared by both associates and partners alike, and she’s not afraid to wield that power when it suits her needs.’

Do us insight professionals want to be described in a similar way? Are we valued like Donna is? Do we need to have a character like hers?

Let’s break that wiki description down a little,

Be extremely perceptive – this is our bread and butter, right? We should have the broadest perceptive compared to others within our organisations. We have all the data that gives us a perspective on the company’s position, competitors and consumers. This arms us better than others in the organisation on a truly rounded perceptive of all the fact. However, we probably lack in the knowledge of people’s opinions, politics and gossip. I know that’s not our trade but probably an areas of data we need to consider to close the knowledge loop (like Donna).

Have a razor sharp wit – this is something I think we should aspire to. Being quick and inventive when delivering our insights can only be a good thing. This does however mean we need to be ready and armed with the key insights whenever it’s needed. However, I understand that we might not always be able to “spit insights” off the cuff, all the time. How can we create mechanisms that allow us to respond to business problems quickly and find unique compelling ways to do that?

Be admired and feared – in every organisation there are decisions makers who leverage their gut, that gut is usually based on experience, weak/misunderstood insights or intuition. This is because they probably haven’t had the time or energy to properly ground their recommendation in a fact-base. Here is when an insight professional can be admired as we can support those ‘gut’ decision makers by finding and simplifying that fact-base. We can however be feared too as those same people run the risk that the data/insights does not support their opinion. A watch out for insight professionals is; when the insights go against a stakeholders gut we should have the courage to speak out, and maybe not evoke fear but diplomatically change opinion.

Don’t be afraid to wield that power – This for me is the most important and follows on from the point above. As insight professionals we really should be fearless, when the facts point us towards a certain direction, we should be bold and elevate that recommendation. I fully understand that there will be other perspectives in the room, but we need to work with our stakeholders to get them to see the insight-based direction.

Sarah Raffety, who plays Donna must have relished the chance to play such a role. I certainly feel like my inner Donna needs to come out a bit more as an insight professional.

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