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So What?

A recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group illustrated a disconnect between internal insight teams and their business line counterparts (i.e., their clients).  The biggest gap between what the insight teams thought they were delivering and what the business lines received was the answer to a fairly simple question, “so what?”

A full 73 percent of insight teams thought they consistently answered this question about the data they provide (p.15).  This is in contrast to the 34 percent of business line personnel who agreed with them … a gap of 39 points … the largest in BCG’s study.

This gap poses an interesting challenge to insight teams.  To think beyond the finding.  To not only articulate the insight, but to communicate a point of view about it.  And to make sure the insight is actionable.

The truth is, an insight is only as valuable as the impact it creates.  That may be a hard truth for some to accept.  One might say, “If I do my job finding insights, I can’t be held accountable for what happens next.”  Maybe not.  But it’s not likely you’ll be promoted either.  By thinking about the possible impact an insight could have, you are elevating your role from one of research vendor to business partner.  And as a partner, there is more opportunity to inspire your audience and help them solve problems.  If you can effectively communicate how the business can act on and benefit from the insights you are uncovering, the insights become inherently more relevant, meaningful and impactful … and so do you.

Maybe the question you should be answering isn’t “so what?” but “what if?”  To help people think of the possibilities and opportunities created by the insights you are uncovering?  This doesn’t require you to have all the answers, but it does require you to think in context of business problems and possible solutions.  To me, that’s a more powerful place to be … evolving from one who is answering questions to one who is helping solve problems.

So what if you focused more on solving problems than simply answering questions?  What if you started to answer not only the “so what?” but the “what if?”  What if you focused more on the impact of the insights than you did on the methodology of finding them?  Could you transform the insight function within your organization?  Could you transform your organization?

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