DON’T Turn Knowledge into Insight!

The spark of insight

This may be a surprise to you, but you should rarely – dare I say never? – turn knowledge into action. If you do, you will almost certainly fail. 

Let me explain. I have nothing against action, in fact I don’t think enough companies activate their learnings. When you have gathered all your data and turned your information into knowledge, you know a lot, don’t you? But knowledge isn’t underst anding. You don’t know the reason “why”.


Identify your issue

Suppose you have done some market research and know your customers are mostly young men, who are 18 to 24 years of age. You might then assume that your offer is not appealing to young women, which may be true. You might therefore decide to target young men in your actions and forget about the female category users.

However, unless you turn your information and knowledge into underst anding, you might just be missing out on a whole segment of potential customers. You need to underst and why more men than women are buying your product or service. Is it the name, the size, the packaging, the outlets in which it is sold, the way it is communicated, or simply the product or service itself? Unless you know why men buy and not women, you cannot successfully develop a plan of action, or should I say as successful a plan, as you could.


An example

I remember discussing a famous soft drink br and a few years ago with its Regional CMO. The manufacturer was concerned that his br and was only being bought by women. He therefore decided to launch a second br and for men. The new br and was not as successful as he had hoped and so he asked my help in underst anding what was going on.

It turned out that he had a lot of information about his current consumers, but very little knowledge or underst anding, and definitely no insights. Instead of launching a new br and targeted to men, which had cost millions to produce and market, he could have simply tried to find out why male category users were not buying his current br and. When we looked into it more deeply, it turned out to be simply a question of communication and pack size, and had nothing to do with the br and itself.

By changing these two elements of the mix, he could easily have attracted more men to buy the br and in the first place. He could also have then spent more money – significantly less than the launch cost – on supporting it in appropriate channels for men. And saved the company a lot of money and aggravation from the failed launch.


Keep asking “Why?”

Before you get too excited about all the information and knowledge you have gathered, and start working on plans to activate your findings, just stop. Ask yourself the question “why”; ask it as often as is needed to be able to underst and what is really happening. Once you underst and what is going on, then and only then will you be equipped to develop appropriate actions.

Underst anding is also necessary to develop true insight, that will lay the foundation for the future success of the br and in the long-term.

What are your tips for better underst anding and insight development? I would love to hear your ideas.

If you would like to know more about underst anding and insight development check out the C3Centricity website here: and/

This post first appeared on August 12th 2011 on  the Comments page of C3Centricity  

C³Centricity sources images from

2 thoughts on “DON’T Turn Knowledge into Insight!

    1. Thanks for your comment DY.
      I don’t believe it is possible to understand something you don’t know! Therefore the order you suggest won’t work.
      My title was designed anyway to provoke thought; too many people jump to conclusions and think that insights come from one piece of information or one market research project. My idea behind the post was to get people to think differently and to understand that true insight comes from integrating multiple piece of information and knowledge in order to understand the customer, market or situuation.
      It is hard to do and takes effort, which is why most people never actually develop real insights, just pieces of at best understanding.
      Thanks again for your comment.

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