All organizations are seeking innovation in one way or another – but, unearthing innovative new products, revenue streams, or customer sources requires insight, according to two professors from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.
They define insight as “an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue or boost engagement.”
The pair outline various insight channels that can be mined for innovative ideas to bolster business.
“Businesses today are awash in data,” according to the post. “Innovators pore over this information looking for promising ideas, but often they focus on means and averages, which lead to broad conclusions. Sometimes the real opportunities lie in the results that deviate from business as usual.”
To look for anomalies, firms should focus on analyzing data with questions including:
- Is market share or revenue askew (remarkably high or low) in specific geographic areas?
- Is a specific customer segment outperforming expectations?
- Do particular supplies deliver more quickly than others?
- Are specific salespeople contributing more than others?
Insight can also be generated from analyzing data for intersecting trends, the article notes.
“New social habits, technologies, and areas of interest are forming all the time across all facets of life,” according to the authors. “The smart innovator looks at how they fit together.”
To benefit from confluence, query data around questions like these:
- What are the major trends–economic, demographic and technological–affecting the company or the competitive landscape?
- How do these trends overlap?
“For instance, if you combine an aging population (a demographic trend) with mobile connectivity (a technology trend) and rising healthcare costs (an economic trend), you can mine the intersection to create services such as remote health care monitoring for seniors.”
Insight can also be gleaned from analyzing “positive deviants,” those stakeholders that fall outside of the mainstream.
“Positive deviants may be visionary customers who can help you see trends before they become mainstream,” the article notes. “They may be manic coworkers who are passionate and don’t take no for an answer. Innovators must look at the fringes of stakeholder groups and ask: What can we learn from those who are most intense in their complaints or enthusiasm that we could apply to our company or our role?”
Companies also should be open to gaining insight from new types of data. According to a recent research report from Aberdeen Group, companies have garnered benefits by expanding from mainly analyzing transactional data to include unstructured data like text-based data from social media channels, traditional text-based documents such as call center and field service notes and rich media like images and videos.
For example, the study found that:
- 70 percent of companies using unstructured data saw an improvement in data viability
- Companies using unstructured data experienced a 14 percent year-over-year increase in organic revenue compared to a 10 percent increase for all other companies
“Sometimes a game-changing insight can hinge on information that is anecdotal or tacit, as opposed to most data that is quantifiable and explicit. Companies that can augment their analyses with unstructured data will find new doors of insight opening up all over the organization.”