An ever-increasing amount of data has led companies to search for insights. However, many are not taking the proper path to find insights, according to Liam Fahey, executive director at the Leadership Forum and author of multiple books about competition and strategy, during an Executive Jam Session at the 2016 Summer AMA Conference.
“The most dangerous animal in life is a recently minted MBA student with software,” he says.
Most companies have a large amount of data from many sources, Fahey says, and all kinds of analysis is done to create what they consider to be insights. However, most aren't creating real insight. Many don't know what is meant by the word “insight,” he says, which is apparent if anyone is asked about their working definition of the word.
Fahey's definition of insight? “It's a new understanding of change that makes a difference” to decision making, thinking and action, he says.
Desired attributes of an insight is something that shifts understanding, is novel, is not obvious, is congruent, is explanatory and has endurance. Insights also must be put into proper context by a human mind, Fahey says.
“Without a human mind, you cannot have insight,” he says. “If you're going to do good insight work, you have to be willing to orchestrate the analysis context. … Insight comes from the mind. You have to be cognizant of some mind principles and some data principles.”
An open mind must also be present for the best insights, Fahey says. The reality reflected in each piece of data is always changing, he says, which means all insights must be challenged and considered as tentative.
Immersion is in the human brain and business data is another key toward finding great insights, Fahey says. Companies shouldn't “even think about doing insight work unless you first immerse yourself in neuroscience” in an effort to properly understand how the brain works. A proper understanding of the brain and months-long immersion in business data will likely lead to the sought after aha moments, Fahey says.