Are you A Collector, or an Explorer?

This post was updated in January, 2020

Sometimes when we work on research with a client, they are very familiar with a specific kind of tool, or they have a strong understanding of how to understand a certain kind of data. Surveys are a good example. Most of us like the certainty of surveys – we can understand the statistical value of the data, the numeric nature of data makes good charts, and it can be organized and displayed in incredibly beautiful and insightful ways. When you use a survey, you’re a collector of data. Oh, you might add a few open-ended questions, but the bulk of everyday survey work is about things you know, and figuring out whether you can make a great discovery by connecting them, or organizing them in different ways, or by gathering new (but finite) facts. How many trees are in this photo? How often does the river overflow its banks? At what time is the light best for a photo like this one?

On the other hand, when you use qualitative research, it’s more like being an explorer. You don’t bother to guess what might be around the corner – you explore. You might do that observationally, by taking a walk in the woods or along the river’s edge, and taking photos, or making notes. Or, you could ask the person in the photo why they’re here. What led them to this spot? Have they explored here before? Are there things that might have been helpful on their journey so far?

The thing is, it’s difficult to be a collector and an explorer at the same time. The first requires precision, a certain fore-knowledge, and many data points to validate. The second requires a sense of wonder, an openness to the idea that the answers my not be easily quantifiable on a chart, but delivers a richness and depth of understanding that is hard to see  in a pie chart. Both are necessary, and each kind of understanding of your customer, your market, your operations, deserves your attention and care. When you have big questions that need answering, think about whether you need to be a collector or an explorer, and it will help you decide how to structure your research in a way that matches with the hat you’re wearing for this project.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. Our company name means “see everything”, because we help our clients see everything they need to know, to make better decisions. If you’re wrestling with the right kind of approach to get the answers you need so you can find, know, or keep more customers, we can help. For more ideas like this, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook – and if you want insights delivered direct to your inbox, you can subscribe by clicking the orange button, below. 

Which way should we go?

This post was updated on January 15, 2020…it seems clients are still wrestling with how to make decisions when so much seems so uncertain…

Are you having difficulty knowing which move to make next? Maybe you’ve even undertaken a number of rounds of research, and yet the way still seems unclear. Sometimes when this happens, it’s because more than one course of action seems reasonable. Other times, it’s because every possibility comes with risks that make some of your team (or you) uncomfortable. What can you do?

​In these situations, it’s important to get back to basics. Clearly identify the decision you need to make. Then, list only the answers you need, in order to make that decision. Don’t get side-tracked by “nice to know”. It’s rare that you can make a strategic move on one set of data, or using one sort of research tool. More likely, you’ll need to combine several screens or frameworks. The good news is that this doesn’t always have to be costly. Setting your priorities and conducting an audit of data you already own, will allow you to focus your resources on only sourcing the “mission critical” answers. Setting a plan in advance as to what frameworks you’ll use to guide your decision, depending on those answers, is the final piece of the puzzle.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. Whether it’s creating frameworks to help sort through key pieces of customer insight, undertaking research audits or leading workshops to teach clients how to do that for themselves, or finding data that approximates data sets their head office uses but that aren’t available in their jurisdiction, we help our clients see everything they need to know, to make better business decisions. 

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What can we learn from success

This blog was updated and reposted in January, 2020.

We hear a lot these days about learning from failure; fail faster, fail often.  That’s often a good thing, as long as you are learning why you failed. Back in my Engineering days we referred to this as “Root cause failure analysis”. The theory being that if you understood the failure, you would not repeat it.

I propose that we turn our faces to the sun and conduct more “Root cause SUCCESS analysis”.

It’s human nature, when we win it’s because we did a great job, we got everything right, it’s all because of me!

But what if it’s not?  What if you won because the competition didn’t actually play in this game? What if you won, but you left a lot of money on the table?

It’s important to look at your success through the eyes of your customer because you and your team are inherently biased.  And what if you discover you don’t have all the information you need? Start with a clear inventory of what you know, and what you don’t. Then look for a partner who can bring fresh eyes to the project. Bringing 20/20 vision to your “Root cause success analysis” in a good start.  We can help.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We help our customers to see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their business. You can find more insights from us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. For weekly insights delivered directly to your inbox, sign up using the orange button, below.


How To Turn an Observation into an Insight

“We’ve seen our customers do this a thousand times”.

So what? You’ve assembled a thousand observations. Although it is valuable evidence, this doesn’t make it an insight. Let’s dig deeper.

  1. Get the people around the table who have actually seen the customers do this a thousand times, or at least, evidence that they have. What exactly have they done? Define the action customers have taken. and make sure you all agree on the definition.
  2. Ask yourselves, what do these customers have in common? (Be sure you have a clear picture of the target).
  3. Figure out why you think they’re doing it. (Still not an insight, but getting closer: this is your hypothesis).
  4. Design an experiment or test to validate what you think. (Go beyond surveys: try it out in the same situation as the customer, or undertake depth research, or even invite them around a table to explain what you’ve observed and ask if they know why).
  5. Discuss your findings with your team and decide on the best way to use what you’ve learned that will serve your customer.
  6. Evaluate your concept with a pilot.

No matter how that turns out, there’s an actionable outcome: you’ve got answers that will let you scale the solution, or get off the wrong track. Now that’s an insight!