The whodunit of insight

The whodunit of insight

This is the first in our opinion series, designed to share the expert knowledge and insight of our people. First up is Mark James, Director of Insight at Differento/ogy.

Despite being two completely different concepts, the terms “research” and “insight” are often used interchangeably. It is the job of the purist to patiently(ish) explain exactly why there is a world of difference between the two. This particular purist will be using analogies from detective shows to stop it getting too boring. Don’t worry.

So, let’s be clear what we’re talking about first of all. “”Research” is about collecting information at its most basic level. Think focus groups and surveys. It involves lot of complex processes with an intimidating list of do’s and don’ts. These ensure good rigorous results and brace you against the barrage of phrases like ‘statistically significant’ that is sure to come. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) “research” isn’t generally considered the sexiest of subjects. It’s not the kind of profession you admit to down the pub or on a first date (unless you really don’t want a second).

“Insight”, on the other hand, is a lot cooler (It is, okay?). In essence, it involves taking the data you got from all that rigorous research and adding a layer of understanding, thereby transforming what was a jumble of letters and numbers into something with real meaning.

In a marketing context, good insight will inform strategic teams, helping them to make better decisions, grow brands, and increase profitability.

As with all good things, there is a downside. The journey to “insight” is complex. It involves a long walk down a complicated road. In the dark. With a candle. On a blustery night. It’s both an art form and a mind-set. Your grey matter needs to go into overdrive and remember the following rules:

-Constantly ask questions.
-Try new theories and angles.
-Find relationships and patterns.

At d.fferentology we like to think of ourselves as masters of both “research” and “insight”. So where does one go for research methods and insight wisdom? We take great inspiration and succour from Columbo (Yes, star of 70s TV (and our hearts). Who else would we mean?).

Columbo was the original master of insight. Once he had his research data, he followed our steps to a T:

-He always probed and asked questions: “Just one more thing…”
-He always looked for a different angle: “You know what I don’t understand?”
-He was constantly searching for the connections and relationships: “There are   a couple of loose ends I’d like to tie up.”
-Eureka! (Imagined his voice, this is perfection itself.)

Columbo may have carried with him a look of perpetual confusion, yet we all knew he was simply mulling his research over in his mind: “It’s just one of those things that gets in my head and rolls around like a marble.”

Ultimately, Columbo would shrewdly secure all the evidence he needed to solve the crime and then find out ‘whodunit’- the moment of true insight.

We may not get to indulge in police chases or rain coats, but we like to think our thinking is on par with the great man himself, and when we get to the dramatic conclusion, it’s just as satisfying.

(Credit and thanks to Matthew Milan for the Columbo quotes).

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