I wrote a definition of ‘Insight’ on December 29, 2010 that read:

“An insight is:

  • New information
  • Executable
  • Causes action
  • Profitable

Or, more detailed, an insight is:

  • A piece of information that you didn’t know before, which –
  • Can feasibly executed, culturally acceptable and of a scale relevant to the firm, and –
  • Causes a decision to be made that wouldn’t have been made otherwise, and –
  • Results in profit or a sustainable competitive advantage”

If held to that standard, insights are incredibly rare.

Depending on who you talk too, an insight may mean:

  • A bullet point factoid
  • An element that combines all that is known about a segment, compressed into the foundation what motivates and inspires them
  • A simple statement of cause and effect

So, any of the following have been called ‘insights’ in the past:

  • Sales increased by 4%
  • Young men 18-25 compete to get laid and look for edges
  • Scoring better Google PageRanks increased organic traffic by 9%

It’s all possibly all ‘new to you’. The rest is all context. Bullet one isn’t actionable. The second bullet point is actionable if a company can take action by solving that particular segment problem or aspiration. The third is getting there – what’s the unit of measure for ‘Google PageRanks’ – and is it a lever I can push?

There’s a lot of confusion out there in the market about just what an insight is. It’s a problem.

Whenever you’re asked for more insights, please ask, ‘what do you mean by more insights’. It’s the only way to get into their head. Yes, it’s aggressive inquiry, but you won’t be chasing your tail.