5 Strategies to Turn Insights into Action

Emily James

Pitch It: The Business Case for Customer Salience

As insight experts, we understand the power of insights, their inherent value in key decision-making...


Emily James

    Turning insights into action – the end game for both insight professionals and stakeholders. But it’s also one of the trickiest challenges we face.

    Most research projects don’t hit their true potential due to an inability to follow through in the activation stage. While we are still searching for impactful ways to guarantee the full use of insights after the handover, there are a few ways that we can implement to give us the best chance of using insights as fully as possible.

    1. No More ‘Good Enough’

    With the pressure for faster insights, we often fall into the mentality of ‘that’s good enough, we need to move on now’, often to the detriment of the insights at the end. The more effort we put into the research itself to get it right, no matter the timeframe or the pressure from stakeholders, the better insights we will produce and the more stakeholders are likely to listen our to their quality.

    So how do we keep focussing on quality rather than the ‘good enough’ mentality we are in danger of falling into?

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    How do we help insights reach their full potential in the hands of stakeholders? What strategies are there to help us stimulate action once the insights have been generated?

    Mostly, it requires us sticking to our guns as insight professionals in the face of stakeholder pressure for faster, cheaper, and better insights. We have revolutionised research methodologies to try and provide insights at the speed of business, but stakeholders want more. So we need to reiterate and focus on the quality insights provided by slower research as well the quicker, agile research, to generate well-rounded and robust insights.

    2. Delegation: The Usefulness of Insight Advocates

    While we do our thing behind the scenes, it can be incredibly helpful to delegate some insight activation duties to other insight professionals or simply those staff members on the other side of the equation that know and love insights as we do. While this doesn’t happen particularly often, creating a space for insights on each team within the organisation helps spread the word around that insight professionals are here to help answer all questions the rest of the organisation might have; both simple questions and tough questions, nothing is off limits.

    These advocates can be trained in the art of interpreting and activating insight on a myriad of levels, from simple daily decisions to tough strategic movements that will bring about positive change. They can also be trained to spot opportunities for more research and advocate the value of insights produced, so the financial resources that are allocated don’t seem like a waste.

    3. Democratisation of Data

    This is one of the best ways to turn insights into action over a larger area, and something the insight advocates could use immensely to power their campaigns across an organisation.

    Even if the insight advocates aren’t implemented, this central repository of data that is accessible to all is an incredible opportunity for others external to the insight team or agency to access the right information whenever the right time and situation presents itself. For when quick decisions are needed, staff can simply log in to the databank, search and find the relevant insights, and make an informed decision within minutes, actioning the data collected time and again to get the full use possible of the insights collected.

    This depends on the data in the repository being relevant and up-to-date, so taking the time to go through the databank to sort out which insights shelf-life is up would need to be a task for the insight team on a regular basis. But a system could be implemented after the initial sort through to colour code if you will those insights that are still relevant, which are in the process of losing relevance but still usable under certain circumstances, and which have lost relevance completely.

    4. Creative Reporting – Insights Activation

    For truly impactful insights activation, we need to change the way we present insights so that they’re fully heard and not just glanced over by stakeholders. There are a number of alternative reporting methods implemented in recent years, so we are slowly moving away from wordy written reports.

    Reporting methods are becoming more interactive and visual to stimulate an increased level of stakeholder engagement – methods such as: insight activation workshops (to present and guide stakeholders through their decisions as they work through the insights provided), video reports, data visualisation through integrated knowledge management platforms, insight newsletters and infographics,  and more allow us to step up our game and the potential of our insights.

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    Catching the attention of stakeholders isn't easy, especially if they see insights as a cost rather than their value. So how can we change that perception?

    However there can be more creativity in insight reporting, something we have experimented with copiously with our Insight as Art campaign in 2019 and 2020 where we turned qualitative insights into vibrant, engaging artworks that captured the attention of stakeholders and easily communicated insights.

    5. Stakeholder-Researcher Relationships

    While this is an impactful strategy, it’s one of the longer-term strategies that works best when implemented on a continual basis. Building the right relationship between stakeholders and insight teams/agencies can be tricky, but the end result means that we can:

    • create truly tailored research experiences that provide deeply actionable insights across organisations
    • build trust between the two parties, which opens up paths for collaboration and an easier flow of insights
    • enhances the internal brand of the insights team and promotes them as a go-to team for answers, thus further enhancing the activation of insights even further

    So how do we build better stakeholder-researcher relationships? That is a question we are still working to answer in its entirety. It depends on the stakeholders present, their level of research knowledge and the value they place in insights - if this value and knowledge level is low, then the connection we build will be based on education (the tougher of the two scenarios since it involves proving ourselves and our value in most conversations); but if the level of knowledge and value is high then we don’t have to work too hard to prove ourselves, it’ll then usually be a matter of maintaining or building on their knowledge to see how well stakeholders can collaborate with the insight team.

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