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The pursuit of relevant, differentiated insights
Thought Leadership

The pursuit of relevant, differentiated insights

by Elizabeth Morgan

The essential pre-condition to deliver insights that drive outstanding decisions is to be your team understand your business stakeholders and carefully listened to their business needs.  At our executive panel on scalability and business impact with insights centers of excellence with Forrester analyst Cinny Little and insights executives at American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, EON, Home Depot and Mondelez, we heard how important it is for insights to be both relevant and differentiated. It seems that business proximity in the field and on the laptop is key to achieve this.

Phillip Chambers, VP and Global Head of Insights at American Express, shared his obsession with insights relevance and differentiation to drive the business. According to Phillip, if an insight is relevant but not differentiated, it simply confirms what people already know. In other words, it’s banal. And if an insight is unique but irrelevant, it’s simply a provocation without purpose (inane). Perhaps worse, an insight that’s neither relevant nor differentiated, is simply clutter. To make their mark inside your business and for your customers, your insights need to live in the highly relevant and highly differentiated sweet spot. “That’s what we strive for when we develop products and solutions and communications for our customers … and that space is quite rare.”

When it comes to Centers of Excellence, the centralized model can produce a lot of differentiation, “because you’ve got real critical mass around expertise, but you may miss the connection to the business units,” said Phillip. “And if you’re incredibly devolved, you may get the business connection, but miss the uniqueness because you’re too thinly spread to create a critical mass.“

There’s a balance to be struck to ensure a Center of Excellence is really listening to the business to deliver relevant insights that are differentiated. For Richard Thorogood, VP, Global Head of CMI at Colgate-Palmolive, one of the most important skills is to be a good listener, “really trying to put yourself continually into the shoes of the division, trying to find common ground, and making sure that common ground is aspirational, not just the lowest common denominator.” Kristina Rodig, Head of Global CMI at E.ON, agrees: “Actually understanding the needs in the divisions, that’s what brings us to eye level with our business stakeholders.”

Brendan Baby, Head of CX, Strategy, & Analytics at The Home Depot, says his team stands apart from the clutter bucket by focusing on relevance and refusing to perform work that will not change business minds or hypotheses.” To get to the differentiated insights, his team “take three and five really big swings every year, picking a topic that the organization might not be comfortable with, to move the company forward.”

Meanwhile at Mondelez, Paola Vacchini, Director, Consumer Insights & Analytics Europe sees the ability to deliver relevant and differentiated insights as a consequence of evolving skills. Working in a hybrid (hub and spoke) organization means we can “looking for unique solutions and differentiated kinds of contributions that bring the best, incremental advances to the different teams.”

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