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How Insights Can Spark a Bold Post-COVID Future

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It’s a dull, rainy spring day in New England. The kind that makes you want to be disruptive – of the weather gods, if nothing else. You start imagining you are endowed with a magic wand that can change the weather… and why stop at that? Perhaps it can even transport you to a warm sunny destination.

To be honest, you realize it isn’t even the chilly spring, or the chillier winter this year that makes you feel under the weather. To tweak a quote from Game of Thrones, winter not only came, but with COVID-19 still looming, it feels like it never left!

It begs the question: Could that magic wand be a metaphor for a much-needed mindset shift on how to address emerging consumer needs, post-COVID? If so, perhaps we can also re-imagine the negatives and challenges we’ve collectively experienced over the past year as opportunities to sharpen our insights practice for the future.

As I began to outline how this mind shift might look – and share my initial observations with others – I realized it all centers on a unifying theme: our industry’s capacity to embrace bold, audacious thinking and use it to shake the COVID cobwebs off our customer vision, which I call our “Covidacity.”

I decided that analyzing the details of this mindset shift would be my insights and innovation experiment this quarter. So, without further ado (but with a little help from friends), here are three observations I feel are worth focusing on to pursue greater agility and adaptiveness in the recovery ahead:

1. Progress from “PYO” to “PYI”
For the uninitiated, PYO is an amazing line of ceramics and pottery that you not only paint but can bake in the oven, and it has been a mainstay of my lockdown survival strategy. (Hurrah! A DIY kitchen project that I didn’t have to worry about others finding edible!).

PYI, on the other hand, is a close cousin of that DIY trend, taken to a more entrepreneurial and audacious conclusion. Prioritize Your Insight is a way for industry professionals to focus on an aggregation of the key “aha!” moments we discover through insights, so business leaders can quickly digest which findings will trigger a business result that’s incremental to the bottom line.

For example, this prioritization could be by revenue, growth estimates, or market opportunity. What would make this prioritization bold and audacious would be to provide directional guidance to business leaders on the best bet for success. Nextdoor prioritized the insight that the neighborhood has become the focus of people’s lives. They set up a digital bulletin board for local communities to exchange everything from lost pets to COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in a user spike of 50%.

Let’s unravel that for a moment. There’s little argument that a plethora of data exists, but often this abundance doesn’t necessarily translate into actionable insights that can move the needle. But what if we took a “back to basics” approach and prioritized ideas that offer an element of convenience, surprise, or joy? It may just give us more freedom to add elements of hyper-personalization to our brand experiences – just like Nextdoor and those hand-painted pottery projects that were flying off the shelves over the past year.

2. Start adding “Digi-tinis” to your “Quarantinis”
It may not be as fun as its namesake, but this concept encompasses everything from reinventing your insights space with a collaborative online whiteboard app, like a Miro board, to using infograms to visually illustrate which data is most relevant to your business from a consumer’s standpoint.

We could even take it a step further to envision the power of these tools in combination: Imagine if your Miro board met real-time social listening. It would be an easy way to not only digitize consumer learnings but also inject those learnings into our downstream meetings. This would help make our insights more stimulating and easier for our organizational partners and stakeholders to understand and embrace.

As a business leader, an insights digi-tini or digi-tini alert would be the perfect knowledge substitute or enhancement to a quarantini!

3. Shift your focus from “data wealth” to “insights capital”
We have already discussed the plethora of data. Digital mental health is a good example of data abundance. According to a recent study published in Neuropsychopharmacology more than 40% of mental health or substance use disorder consultations were conducted virtually compared with less than 1% before the pandemic began. In mental health alone, according to the American Psychology Association, there are up to 20,000 such apps available today. This creates a wealth of data but puts the onus of choice on consumers and clinicians. And often it’s not easy to pick or recommend the best one for a patient.

Insights has an important role to play here: We constantly discuss how best to weave data from multiple sources to build more seamless products and experiences. Insights professionals do this today with tools and curated libraries. The real need is to aggregate the interests and needs of diverse audiences. In the mental health example above, it would mean helping to resolve the sometimes conflicting interests and needs of caregivers, clinicians, and consumers themselves. Tackling this conundrum across different audiences would enable us to create insights capital that drives easier decision making.

Follow the Covidacity journey as it continues
The need for Covadacity is partly due to legacy businesses having suddenly imploded. It is the resulting need to embrace big, bold, audacious practices, whether it means better prioritization of insights to enable bigger bets, digitization of the processes used to activate them, or pursuing other experimental ideas.

Layer on top of that the ability to conduct higher-order analysis vs. data paralysis. This will help to sharpen not just predictive capabilities but ensuing business results. It will make us more valuable partners that not just support and enable businesses but help businesses to empower and delight the consumers they serve. And this is what I call Covidacity. The ability to prioritize, digitize, and build insights capital to spark big, bold audacious results.

For more on this, tune in to All Things Insights, or attend TMRE @ Home from June 7 to 10, where I will be speaking and discussing this and other future trends with my colleagues from Coca-Cola, BuzzFeed, and Pinterest. Don’t miss out! Register today.

About the author
Christina SpeckThis blog is written by Christina Speck. She is Head of Advocacy & Engagement at Optum and the Founder of Innovation Hacks. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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