Whatever Happened to Insight

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. It’s been eating at me, and then just last week, I witnessed an example of an unwillingness to provide real insight, when real insight is really required.

Whatever Happened to Insight

A couple of academics, senior people who know their stuff, had promised specific actionable recommendations for policy makers to act on. I was meeting with them to review their recommendations in advance of a big roundtable type meeting focused on reviving a troubled industrial sector. They were then to present their recommendations to the policy makers as a basis for action.

Strong recommendations could have had a profound effect on an industry which these specific academics really care about. Insight driven recommendations might have made a real difference. Insight driven recommendations might have actually been listened to and understood. Instead, the academics brought a list of ideas from the other academics they had canvassed about this problem. This was their chance to flex their intellectual acumen to provide real intuition, comprehension and discernment…but they just brought a list.

I’m not sure why this particular example went wrong. Was it just too hard? Was it because they tried to cram the night before and ended up settling? Maybe they just did not see it as important. Perhaps they did not know people were counting on their insight and expertise.

Whatever Happened to Insight

I was first provoked to store this pet peeve in my memory banks several years ago when I witnessed someone pass out printed web pages as research.

Asked to provide their insight into a particular market opportunity, this fairly junior employee Googled the term in question (probably the morning of the meeting), visited the first 10 pages that came up and just printed them out. When their turn came to present their findings, they passed out the printed pages. I was awestruck.

Perhaps the junior employee really didn’t know that anyone cared about their insight and opinion. But the senior academics? These are specialists in their field of endeavor. These are people that have dedicated their career to providing an expert opinion.

Why am I so worked up about this? Three reasons.

  • One, they wasted everyone else’s time.
  • Two, they squandered an opportunity to exercise real influence to drive positive change.
  • Finally, we need to stop building our strategies and plans on junk. We need real insight for effective plans.

This unwillingness to provide insight is a scourge on organizations, industries and even governments.

Whatever Happened to Insight

So, how do we improve this insight situation? Do we need a new corporate program? Do you need a consultant like me? No, we can fix this one from the ground up. We all just need to stop settling.

If the above examples sound anything like you, stop it. If you see others engaged in these behaviors, stop enabling them. Call it out. Say “hey Bob, we consider you a real expert and we were hoping for your insight.” When you see this anti-insight happening, ask some questions like:

  1. What conclusions do you draw from all this information?
  2. What specific and tangible recommendations do you have?
  3. How would you personally address this situation?
  4. If it was in your power to make real change, what would you do…personally?
  5. What does this all mean to you, and what should we do about it?

Think about. Watch for it. Drop me a line if you’d like to vent.

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