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Insights vs. Instincts

July 11, 2017

A couple of months ago, I had a meeting with one of our clients and presented some significant data about our existing project. I was so excited to share insights about what had been happening as a result of our partnership and predictions about growth in the months and years to come.

Uncharacteristically for me, my presentation included graphs, lots of numbers, and tangible evidence of our success. These insights were something we lacked in the past, so I was particularly proud to talk about how far we had come in this project and as a company. The client appreciated the information and complimented us on our achievements and progress. However, he said something at the end of our conversation that struck me: “Kevin, I love all of this stuff, it’s really good. Just don’t become too focused on it. Remember why we wanted to work with you in the first place. We didn’t hire you for your insights; we hired you for your instincts.”

He went on to explain that to them, our predictions and projections were interesting, but not nearly as valuable as our ability to do something different—something that’s going to be on the cutting edge.

The best organizations have great data and good insight, but the organizations that change the world couple those insights with instincts to solve problems in a unique way.

1. Insights help you identify your target audience. Instincts help you connect with that audience in an authentic way.

Let’s look at Apple. Why do you think they are so much more successful than other tech companies? They aren’t the only ones that manufacture high-quality computers, tablets, and cellphones, but Apple continues to come out on top with loyal customers willing to wait in line for hours to get their hands on their most up-to-date products.

Other companies are privy to many of the same insights about consumer trends and behavior. Apple, however, has strong instincts. They know that their target audience is people that appreciate accessible, easy-to-use technology, so they appeal to their audience with simple, clean advertising. Their billboards, posters, and commercials draw their customers in with quick and clear explanations of their products. The insights tell them what customers want, but the instincts help them accomplish the goal in a far more compelling way. These types of instincts will draw customers in and help them move beyond interest to action and buy your product.

2. Insights tell you what people want. Instincts help you design what people need.

Your insights illuminate what people are looking for, but your instincts tell you how to create something new and different to fill a gap that exists in the market.

Steve Jobs famously said, “If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford had the insight to see people wanted a faster means of transportation, but he also knew that most of them couldn’t dream beyond the horse. His instincts gave him the creativity necessary to make automobiles affordable and accessible to a greater audience, and our world has never been the same.

3. Insights tell you where you’re going. Instincts help you change course to end up where you want to be.

Insights are good. They help us predict our measure of success and determine what our customers are most likely to buy. Insights show us trends, what our predicted success rate will be if we keep going on the same path. However, our instincts help us change that course to create a different outcome, one that could make the future even better.

It’s encouraging to see where ADDO has come as a company and to use data to predict potential future success, but I don’t want to become too content with these predictions. Our client challenged us to stay on the forefront and to not neglect the piece of our company that set us apart—our instincts. So, my hope is that we’ll use these instincts to move forward and to continue to work to innovate and change the world around us.

Insights coupled with instincts lead to innovation that impacts your organization and the world.

Have you spent the time to gain the correct insights? Are you focusing so much on those insights that you’ve forgotten to use your instincts?

Don’t rely so much on the former that you forget to leverage the latter.


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