The term “actionable insight” is used a lot in the insights industry. But what exactly is it, and how do you get from raw data to truly actionable insights?
To know what actionable insights are, we first need to understand what insights are in general. An insight is “a clear, deep, and sometimes sudden understanding of complicated problem or situation” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. To go from an insight to an actionable insight, you need to be able to use the insight to build actions, create and alter strategies, and make decisions that will improve the situation. In other words, the insight is knowing why something is happening, and the actionable insight is knowing how to respond to that and what to do next.
Understanding what an actionable insight is, is the first step on the road to generating them. The second step is recognising what they look like.
When you read through insights generated by someone else, there are a couple of key aspects to look for. To start with, valuable insights are more than just information, they also need to explain and clarify the information in order to be insightful. That context is essential, as it could mean the difference between the business taking a right or a left at the proverbial crossroads. In short, an actionable insight needs to inform you of what is happening, why it is happening and what options you have in terms of the actions you can take.
There are a good number of recognisable factors within actionable insights; for instance, they have to be relevant, specific and have value to the decision maker. While an actionable insight needs to bring new information to the table, they don’t have to be from a completely new dataset; something you don’t already know for sure, because if you know it already it has no value and is not relevant. Also, something that is an actionable insight for you might not be an actionable insight for someone else as it is not relevant. And if the insight is too vague or too broad in subject, it will be hard to make decisions and take actions from is as it is not specific enough which also makes it an un-actionable insight.
How to Generate Actionable Insights
After you can confidently recognise an actionable insight, the next step on is using that knowledge to generate them within research experiences. So how do you get insights that can be used to make decisions with or strategies with? At its most basic level, insights are formed through the analysis of data; data needs to be given context and put into a format so it is easy to read, for example in a table or graph.
It can be a long road to go from data to actionable insight, and it needs some good planning to make sure the end result is actually actionable insight. The journey starts before you start to collecting data; by recognising at the start of your research process that you need actionable insights at the end, you can change and enhance your research process so you will be able to get to the bottom of topic. You can ensure that you’re asking the right questions to the right people, and be able to really dig down into the topic; thought this, you will get create a more purposeful research experience with relevant data and information out of the research, which will lead to more actionable insights for the business.
Once you have your data, it is then a case of having a clear plan of which data you want to analyse and how. Segmenting your customer group might help with taking action later on with a specific target group. Also integrating several data sets and sources can help with understanding your data and making connections which will support your insights. For example, first run a survey to a large target group to see the general opinion. Then after that select a specific group of your large target group (segmentation) to run a focus group with, to get into more detail how they think about it. With this combination, you have a bigger picture with the ability to then zoom in it via into a specific group, which makes it easier to come up with insights and actions for that specific target group.
The Benefit of Insight Managers
Insight Managers are a staple in both in-house research teams and in full-service research agencies. They’re assigned to a specific client or project in order to be able to produce insights from the data and information that we produce. Not just for one project, but because they are involved in all projects of this one client, they have the bigger overview across projects and are able to draw connections between projects and results. They also make sure that the insights are consistently actionable and are valuable for the business. This can mean they need to change the research process slightly to make sure it has the best process possible to generate actionable insights.
If there is a dedicated person within an organisation to gather all results it will make it easier to get an overview of all results and get insights out of all the data, and with that, actionable insights. This will give continuity over time and between projects. The insight manager will liaise with the clients and other departments to make sure the insights are understood and are valuable to the client. Also, this person could investigate where knowledge gaps from previous research and in what direction the next research needs to go to create the next actionable insights.
So, what is Actionable Insight?
An actionable insight allows us to understand why something is happening and how to take action on this result. To get an actionable insight at the end of your research, you need to start the research off by asking the correct questions to make the results relevant, specific and valuable to the stakeholders. To make actionable insights, it can help to have a dedicated insights manager to bring everything together and oversee the process from beginning to end.
Analytically minded, Laura has worked as a consumer scientist for some of the country’s largest FMCG brands, where her research has informed new product development and led to long-term improvements in testing processes.