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Increasing Insights Influence

The double session was about getting that seat at the table, and keeping that seat at the table. We want to learn something different here, which is what do you feel the pushback is? We know that we want to aim for that seat at the table, but it just feels like there’s pushback to getting something done. Does that resonate with you at all?

“It does a bit. The pushback is probably a mindset, and it’s talking ourselves out of the fact that we deserve to be there, that we have a right to be there, that we have permission to be there,” says Walker. “We’re waiting on someone to invite us as opposed to showing up with a business led acumen that’s grounded in the data and the insight that we’ve gleaned from the customer. If we’re waiting, we’re going to be waiting a long time.”

Frank adds, “First of all, there is no one else in the company in any organization regardless of size, profit, nonprofit, that has their finger on the pulse of the customer, of the market, of the competitors, of the societal trends as an insight professional. I believe the question behind the question is, why do I not have enough courage and conviction in my insights, in my analysis, in my knowledge of the business, to frankly just bring my own chair into the room. Because think of your chair as the voice of the customer. You have a chair. That table will expand, but you need to be ready and to have the courage and conviction to really put forth that point of view.”

There is the adage that in Amazon headquarters anytime they had a meeting, there was that seat for the customer. It’s not necessarily even a new concept that we’re talking about.

Walker agrees. “I think there are conversations that happen inside organizations. There’s pieces of information and data stories that are brought into the room. And then there are decisions that get made and actions that ultimately get taken,” he points out. “And if we want to make sure that the customer is factored into that process, we have got to show up. I am a business leader, I’m not just a researcher. I just happen to be operating in a research and insights role. How we see ourselves is really important. Some people just might have a mindset that it’s not my place. Or I’m lesser than or I’m taking orders from someone else. The reality is, human to human, person to person, let’s talk about the business and let’s be in tune with what’s on the agenda of our senior leaders and show up with things that are going to help them be successful and achieve the goals and objectives that they laid out for the organization.”

And that does get to that decision making piece, which is we’re literally funding decisions, essentially.

“We’re not only funding,” says Frank. “We are shaping decisions, creating product demand, creating want for the brand. And if you define your role as that, you are in a whole different mind space, and we don’t walk tall enough. We have to be on our front foot. I love what Thomas said. We are businesspeople first. Research happens to be our craft. One question I know collectively we get all the time is what’s the future of the insights function? Or what does a modern insights function look like? First, it’s not a function. It’s a capability. That’s a fundamental pivot. We need to shift insights from a function to a capability, and it is tremendously rewarding when you do that.”

What about proving the ROI of these insights efforts?

Walker says, “So there’s ROII, which is return on information and insights. Are we seen as a value driving arm of the company? And the KPIs around growth, we are making decisions. What features are we going to put into the product? Are we going to message it? You start to look at these marketing campaigns. The insights are driving the ultimate decisions, and it’s either working or it’s not. The ROI is driving the ultimate outcomes that our leaders care about. Because we’re contributing to that or we’re not. I’ll just bring up another piece of ROI, which is the willingness to do what it takes and roll up your sleeves to help the organization be successful to achieve its goals. Are you speaking up? Because if you’re not saying anything or you’re just watching the ship sink, you’re part of the problem.”

See the full video interview and question and answer session from TMRE Continued, as they further discuss insights ROI, stakeholder engagement and relationships, insights culture and leadership, and more.


  • Seth Adler

    Seth Adler heads up All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has spent his career bringing people together around content. He has a dynamic background producing events, podcasts, video, and the written word.

  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

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