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Obese of information and Anorexic of insights

At first sight, everything seems to be fine. Never have we had so much information available, so much access to market indicators and consumer behavior. Never have we heard so much about new future trends, since Nostradamus. In a way, it’s like we know almost everything about the lives of almost everyone. Like if they were undressing in front of us.

Mountains of data at our disposal. Store computers, credit cards, hotels, client cards throw up numbers to the owners of these machines. They describe in detail with a “monk’s patience” everything that people are doing in all of the points of contact in their lives. A true magnetic resonance of our intimacy. A scan of all of our steps in relation to brands, companies and institutions. But, what they’ve been doing with these numbers is something that we still don’t know. In the past, coupons would be kept for Christmas clearings in shopping malls with the name of the shopper in some cellars, because we didn’t know how this mountain of names with personal information could be of use, after the sweepstakes. In the era of algorithms, “digital cellars” substituted the old basement cellars of the coupons. The algorithms that watch and accompany us still don’t know how to really identify us. The airline companies, that have all of our movements recorded, never have treated us so poorly. The clearings and invites of companies, mathematically marked, cannot see me as a person. Me, who, on Amazon, only buys technical books for many years, lent my account to my mother in law to buy and search for gardening products. Having done that, I became the target of books and gardening tools and my long previous history was mixed with a Jaime dressed as a gardener. Thankfully after a few more purchases of books, they abandoned my penchant for gardening. Another simple example? If I had accepted all of the invitations to associate myself with a certain credit card, I would have five identical cards because they would always offer me one as if it was my first time.

Well, I am sick of this sacralization of the infinite universe of information that is at our disposal, like if they were being vigils of our own existence. Block inspectors.

In our professional lives, in our plannings, in our search for ideas that move the company, we are more and more obese of information and, maybe for this same reason, fat, inflated and unable to see the most important asset which are the insights.

Market insights, consumer insights, brand insights. This is the most valuable idea that feeds the engineering of marketing and communications and that, in last instance, the economy wheel.

Insights have some characteristics. The first is that it is rare. It is hard to be mimicked by brands and rival companies. The comparison with a precious stone is not only a cheap metaphor.

The second is that the insight, itself, does not get intertwined with the raw material, the pile of information from where it is extracted. It is not automatically derived from the universe of numbers, data, indicators. It is an act of revelation that happens in our mind. Not in all minds, of course. Only in those who don’t fall in love with the obesity of numbers and information. Insights are the source of value, not the data.

I have just read the book Creating Marketing Insight (B.Smith e P.Raspin) and what I have always imagined became even more crystal clear. From data to information, from information to knowledge, from knowledge to insight and from insight to value. Like every path that leads to revelation, it is long, arduous, anguishing. It forces us to abandon the temptations of immediacy, of information and data that only make us fat, of the seductive path that takes us back to the start.

Don’t crucify me, look, in no point and time have I said that insights are the bunnies taken out of the hat, without being fed by data from reality. It is very true that they are a product of trained and brilliant minds, but that operate from raw material and not from the void.

Today we are obese of information and anorexic of insights. Big data and small ideas. This is one of the reasons why investments shrink. In all of my professional life, I have never remembered seeing a company not “make” space for a budget, even when it didn’t exist, in the face of a great idea, an illuminating insight. If we stop getting enamored with the ocean of data and information that surrounds us and start to believe that they are only a point of passage, we will probably get to where it is. Forget about the preoccupation with volume, like I say almost every day to my team, we are in the quest to find value.

The insight is not in the spreadsheets, not in the group discussion, not in the social media platforms, not in the market indicators, not in the infinite pages of the internet. It is in the same spot that it has always been and will always be: in our mental capacity to identify it, of seeing the rock rolling in the middle of the “ganga.” It is, above all, an act that is created from curious and restless minds. That requires energy and thinking minds that go way beyond mathematical engineering and statistically built graphs. My background as a Chemical Engineer feels happy with the mountain of data that is available. But it is my Sociological side that makes me feel inspired and curious to excavate insights hidden below the surface of the data.


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