a woman looking up to the sky
Insights are the reason we collect data, the elusive prize at the end of the analytics. So why are they so hard to find? PHOTO: Eunice Lituañas

Insight is a magic term for a new way of thinking about our business that propels us forward. 

We’ve all seen them. We all want more of them. So why are they so hard to come by? And how can you find more?

Let’s take a look at three common reasons why insights are rare, and how to adjust.

You Already Have Insights

If your business is enjoying any degree of success, it almost certainly means you already leverage a couple of core insights.  

For LinkedIn it was the value of a professional network. Capital One recognized that by limiting credit exposure they could increase the number of people they extend credit to. Your business has some core hypothesis that serves as the engine of success.

One of the big reasons insights are rare is that the obvious ones are gone.

Take a moment to recognize all the great insights you already leverage. Pat yourself on the back! 

Now: Are you maximizing them? Can you solve adjacent problems solvable with this insight? Can you combine any of your insights in a new and compelling manner?

New Insights Require a Strong Data Foundation

You maximize your existing insights, but the competition keeps moving forward. How do you generate more?

I know strawberries are great with cream (yum!), therefore I hypothesize that other berries would also be good with cream (YES!). However, if all of your data is for people who do not like milk, your chances of identifying berries and cream as a great dessert will be limited.

Having the correct data is critical to success. As the old adage goes, Garbage In — Garbage Out.

A common business example of this is when start-ups try to achieve product-market fit. Until they find it, all the data shows a negative signal and provides no insight into what a positive signal might be.

So a second big reason insights are rare is because the information needed to make the leap is not available to us.

The solution is to turn your data into information you can use. Is your data of high quality? Is it easy to use and access? Is there a single source of truth? Does everyone in your organization use the same language and fields to communicate? Are the features you measure providing the information you need to peer into the crystal ball?

If You’re Really Successful, You Already Found the Hard to Find Insights

After you discover berries are good with cream, additional data collection and analysis will continue to tell you … berries are good with cream! Unfortunately, no additional information can be gleaned.

Many large and mature organizations find themselves in this state. They have strong core insights that drive strategy and run the engine. They've made the investment into data warehouses, a strong business intelligence platform and extraordinary analysts and seen the results. 

Now, in many instances, they are trying to wring blood from a stone. The deep insights are known. Leaders speak eloquently about different customer profiles and how the organization serves them.

In this environment your team will struggle to find new insights. The time between compelling insights grows longer, and is often driven by changes in the outside world, rather than a new, deeper understanding of the customer. What strategy can you employ to succeed in this environment?

The answer is to broaden your horizons. Experiment. Seek out new adventures. What happens if we add lemon juice to berries? No? How about sugar? Yes!

In an organizational context, you can achieve this by adding additional data sources to your platform. Once you have successfully mined your data, it stands to reason you need to find additional data to develop new insights. 

Note, there are many places to seek answers. New insights can come from working with new people as well as from an external database.

Alternatively, you can work backwards from a current challenge. What data would help solve that problem? Can you crowdsource the data through interactions with customers?

Insights: A Rare Breed, But Not Extinct 

Unfortunately, most of the good insights are taken. However, with diligence and persistence it’s possible to increase your chances to develop new insights and maybe, just maybe, find a little magic along the way.