“Well Rounded” Doesn’t Do It Justice
Many moons ago, when I first started in market research, the insights professional was a bit of jack-of-all-trades. Throughout the workday, you would play the part of ethnographer, statistician, programmer, graphic designer, therapist, and consultant. To say you had to be “well rounded” just doesn’t do it justice. To be successful, you had to conjure real-time skillsets, on-demand personality quirks, and level-headed stoicism to address any issue thrown at you. The top performers, however, enacted the most thrilling persona of all – the one with validated impact – the role of CEO.
Insights: Best Equipped Person in the Room
When you think about it, the impact of insights is pretty incredible. Insights help humans to be understood in order for companies to develop brands, products, and services that change their lives. At GutCheck, we call this Agile Human Experience Intelligence™, a multi-dimensional way of connecting brands to people.
But intelligence only matters if it delivers results. A “winning concept” means nothing if it doesn’t perform in market. A “breakthrough innovation” is only successful if it meets margin requirements. A “revolutionary campaign” is only applauded if it helps you sell. The bottom line matters.
That’s why the evolving insights professional needs to constantly sharpen their business acumen and think more holistically about the implications of their insights. They need to be prepared to answer any question thoughtfully and with backed-up perspective.
Stop Saying, “Good Question” – Sometimes, It’s Not
But I would argue that today’s insights professional also needs to be bold – to challenge stakeholders’ questions as much as justify responses. Think about the broader business implication – the big decision being made – what SHOULD we be asking ourselves? What human understanding, quantifiable metrics, and hypotheses must we address? What part of the narrative is simply noise, and should be disregarded? Part of good decision making is not “losing the plot”, but rather staying focused on the issue at hand. Today’s insights professional must think like a CEO.
The CEO’s Remit
One aspect of having a CEO mindset is cross-functional accountability. When designing, executing, and delivering research, what are the implications to Operations, Finance, Procurement, in addition to Sales and Marketing? What are the internal effects on decisions – what does it mean for employee morale, retention, and growth? What are tradeoffs that must be made, and are there novel ways to see opportunities in those tradeoffs? Even if your main research stakeholder represents a single department, having this cross-functional perspective is imperative to strategic alignment.
Another critical CEO purview is fiscal responsibility. What will it take to deliver on decisions made from research? What supply chain, staffing, and resource considerations must be factored into the equation? While not required to be financial wizards, expert insights professionals provide full visibility into the economic aspects of their recommendations.
Then there’s the softer skills of how you inspire, motivate, and execute the vision. The strongest insights leaders have conviction in their recommendations, back up intuition with facts, and persuasively “sell” the vision internally and externally. Insights leaders must be the investigators, authors, and ambassadors of the human truth.
At the End of the Day, Own It.
The evolving insights leader will be evaluated and valued based on their tangible contributions to the business. This includes tracking execution results, not being afraid to pivot, imbuing human understanding throughout the organization, assessing and articulating the cross-functional impact of decisions and recommendations, communicating with influence, and embracing accountability for outcomes. It’s what any good CEO would do – so own it.