april 11, 2018
How To Keep Insights Alive After Your Team Leaves The Workshop
It is not easy for an organization built for efficiency to change. Its survival is based on executing a range of activities within a fixed amount of resources, over and over. Maybe the business has to produce chairs, maybe it has to deliver cups of coffee, or maybe it has to process data—regardless, the rate of change is increasing due to lower barriers of technology and this impacts the efficiency which impacts scale.
Regardless of the industry, insights represent change and change has risk and needs to overcome skeptics. Specifically, teams take on risk when they embrace insights. Change not only impacts the formal tasks of a job description, but impacts a sense of safety, belonging, esteem and values. How might we package insights to make them more inspirational and reassuring to both the business and the individual?
The first step is to not assume the moment of clarity that happens within a co-creation workshop can seamlessly scale up to the business. This is hard work requiring communication, accountability and a learning mindset. If we want to give these provisional insights the best chance of survival, we need to dig into data and shape it with the story. Let’s unpack the architecture of a structurally sound insight.
Digging Mode: Finding Data
Without digging into data your insights will lack the needed objectivity to scale beyond the context of the conversation at hand. During this mode, you most likely won’t stumble across the perfect data set that perfectly answers your question. So you will have to dig into multiple data sets. Researching multiple datasets is more work but a benefit is it helps to remove bias from the insight. So embrace data variety: internal/external, quantitative/qualitative, standardized/non-standardized.
The first step of digging is finding the data.
Look for data at many levels of sources.
Primary data: talk with users, administer a survey
Secondary data: look at academic sources and research papers with verified information
Tertiary data: explore tangent sources and op-ed pieces for new perspectives
The second step is unpacking it.
Ask why this information is relevant to our audience and problem.
What is known?
What is expected?
What are outliers?
Shaping Mode: Telling Stories
During the shaping mode, the team needs to structure the data in a way that makes a logical argument or looks at a problem with fresh eyes. Shaping begins with asking What case are you making? What is the current state? What is the future state? What is the gap? What philosophies and principles bridge the gap?
After the data is structured, then shift to storytelling. Why stories? People are human beings, not machines. People can be analytical, but emotion plays a big role in alignment and vision setting. Throughout history, a story is the main tool used to build and communicate culture.
First, tell non-fiction stories: gather all the information from your research and pull out the pertinent facts and examples to create a sense of urgency.
Second, tell fiction stories: Based on the innovation horizon, what will our new future look like compared to today?
Wrestling with Insights
Nemawashi is a metaphor for transplanting but also a management mindset found within various lean management systems. It is defined as “an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for change or a new project.” As most things in business, without intentionality and care insights won’t live for very long.
I believe this process is not about a one-way conversation preaching the value of the insight, but sharing the insights through a collaborative approach that allows teams to prototype the new world and blend in their subject matter expertise. This is where an insight transforms from being a two-dimensional snapshot of an opportunity to a reality.
As insights move into the business or the large team, remember, insights do not need to be perfect or complete, but they should be sufficient to point to a new approach within the overarching strategy or a shortcut to innovation and competitiveness.
Special thanks to inspiration Hugh Musick for the role of nonfiction and fiction storytelling within the innovation process.