7 Consumer Insight Killers in your Organization

Insights come when we are uncomfortable

I’ve written before about the positive attitudes and abilities you and your organization can practice to become more insightful. Approaching it from the negative side – the consumer insight killers – sheds some light on consumer insights as a practice within an organization. Many of these organizational behaviors and values that kill insight will be familiar to you. I hope that when considered holistically, they can point a way forward.

7 Insight Killers in your Organization

1. Selecting data that fits your oganization’s world view.

My friend and colleague Evan Oster recently said “it has always amazed me how quickly new employees drink the Kool-Aid and fall in line with what the business believes about itself and its customers. The constant pull of internal dynamics fills the mind-space, and the customer becomes regarded as just someone else who works for the organization. To do insights well, you may have to decline the drink.” Very well said, don’t you think?

2. Not really listening. And, rarely being wrong.

Mat Shore recently published a great post on customer insight “deniers.” You know who you are. You like to quote Henry Ford and Steve Jobs – guys who trusted their gut and never needed any stinking focus groups! What do consumers know anyways? And when forced to attend some customer research, you’re typical response is “they confirmed what I already knew.” But your customers are people – not algorithms. People are complex, contradictory and often confounding. Instead of trying to change their behavior, listen to them and develop empathy with them to learn where your product/service might fit into their lives.

3. Working in Silos. Not sharing consumer insights.

This is a classic insight killer, and frankly it is hard to believe how tenaciously it persists in today’s flat managerial structures. Recently I facilitated a strategic planning session for a global logistics company. They had lots of great ideas for new services that could help take them into the future, but only the sales team had a good grasp of what problems their customers were trying to solve. On the popular TV series Undercover Boss, “high-level corporate execs leave the comfort of their offices and secretly take low-level jobs within their companies to find out how things really work and what their employees truly think of them.” They key word there is “comfort.” While is uncomfortable getting out of our silos, it is precisely when we are uncomfortable that we develop empathy and have genuine a-ha! moments.

4. Valuing “busy-ness,” status quo, conformity and analysis paralysis.

Many organizations are busy, busy, busy gathering mountains of data. Studies have shown that consumer insights users within organizations routinely request more data than they need. Often, the data is used to support the status quo or to conform with someone’s agenda. It is easy to be seduced by today’s agile technology that allows us to gather more, faster and cheaper data. Yet many organizations find they are drinking from the proverbial fire hose, with analysis paralysis being the result. Focus more on asking the right questions.

5. Opening too few windows on the world of their customers.

I recently sat with the MR department of a cruise line. They wanted to understand their passengers on-board experience and whether it fit with their current brand positioning. Could I do online focus groups? Create a consumer panel? As an organization, the only sources of information they had on their passengers were post-cruise customer satisfaction surveys, and social media listening (which is where people complain about them more often then not). My response was “you have ships with 3,000 passengers leaving port almost every day; why not go on one and talk to them?” Organizations often neglect the opportunities to open new windows on the world of their customers that are staring them in the face.

6. Keeping your customers at arms length.

If your customers is “regarded as just someone else that works for your organization,” we have a problem, Houston. Like the previous example, not only do we need to be out spending more time with our customers in their world, we also need to be inviting them into our world. Co-creating, and innovating with them.

7. Not incubating enough.

It is rare, in our culture of “busy-ness,” that we are allowed the time to stop and think; to let things marinate. In my experience conducting two-day consumer insight workshops with client teams, it is almost always the first time they have been granted the opportunity to holistically review ALL of then information they have about their customers. Together in one room (and preferably off-site). To share their (considerable) knowledge. To kick back and ponder.

Gerald Zaltman told me that between fact and insight, lies our imagination.

That’s an idea worth incubating on.

Get the 7 Organizational Insight Killers PDF infographic here.

About the Author

John Holcombe

John is currently the Founder of Wellspring Insights & Innovation and a member of the Board of Directors for the Miami Innovation Fund. John helps many iconic brands and organizations fill up their innovation pipeline with insights, ideas and new concepts. He also offers workshops and training on how individuals and organizations can have more and better insights by developing a culture of insight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *