15 May Blinded by knowledge
Finding insights in a world inundated with information
By Lara-Anne Derbyshire
The following words by Jeffrey Stibel remain imprinted in my mind, and I’d like to share with you why.
“Too much knowledge undermines the greatest insights, the deepest conjectures… and wisdom can be shattered by too much information.” – Jeffrey Stibel
Anyone in marketing and advertising will agree that the most fruitful and purposeful brand engagement happens when based on a unique insight or human truth. It’s what we are all after; we go to great lengths to try and uncover the insight of all insights. This pursuit, the chase, and the challenge, drives us. Often to the brink of despair and then, seemingly out of nowhere, it appears.
Now, that all seems good, and well, right? Nothing like a good problem to solve, but here’s where the words ‘too much’ struck a chord.
We have access to so much data, but we don’t give ourselves the head-space to engage and consider the information we’ve absorbed. Before we know it (the brain being the energy conserving machine it is), consuming as much information as possible in as little time as possible, our mind starts to kick into autopilot and begins to operate in schemas by taking our experiences and filling gaps with familiar constructs. Without this protective system in place, our minds would be porridge.
But, while we are well-informed and hyper-opinionated, the ability to switch into a focused deep thinking mode has been affected, so when it comes to uncovering insights, we automatically switch into autopilot to cope with all the information and fail to see what is right in front of us.
The word ‘insight’ has become so familiar to us that our general understanding of it has become diluted. When you repeat any word, it all of a sudden sounds strange, and you can’t wrap your head around what it stands for anymore. In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to distorted or bias thinking. So amongst all the data and information at our fingertips, we need to engage with relevant consumers and immerse ourselves in their lives, culture and unique experiences so that information becomes meaningful and our minds connect on a deeper level that allows for genuine insights to emerge.
Given our overwhelming access to information in the current and rapidly changing landscape, we have all had to become experts in carefully dissecting and distilling information that may be useful from irrelevant brain fodder. The key is to be able to discern and filter through all this information and find insights that will connect with a brand’s consumers, and answer a real need in their lives.
Context and experience make all the difference – it breaks our autopilot thinking and shifts our perspective. Something seemingly insignificant and mundane all of a sudden takes on new meaning, and an insight comes to life.
It is only with these ‘eyes’ that we can begin seeing what others don’t.
An insight is not being able to articulate an observation (no matter how interesting an observation) but rather going beyond to answer the ‘why’. Insights are not immediately apparent. They speak to what drives the observed behaviour.
As humans, we are creatures of habit and slip into habitual behaviours easily, these become cultural norms and society incorporates them into their acceptable set of constructs. There are ‘aha’ moments waiting to be discovered all around us, where behaviour has become so ingrained that it is not questioned or deviated from, or even always understood.
The key is always to ask why and remember there is a reason behind everything. It is in uncovering and leveraging these insights that we can create meaningful and purpose-driven brand engagements that meet the needs of consumers that they didn’t even realise they had. A genuine insight brings unconscious motivations to a conscious level. It allows the consumer to snap out of autopilot as I call it, engage their attention and see something they hadn’t seen before.
The dictionary definition of insight is “the ability to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. It is a human truth either not identified, unknown or known but not leveraged or linked to an action.”
Data + immersion = understanding + context = meaning = brand + Insight = action/behaviour change.