Data collection, on any level, has become a fairly easy task to do nowadays. With so many resources available on the Internet, do one simple Google search and you can get answers to your questions in two seconds. However, easy data does not necessarily mean meaningful data.

Collecting data is one of a market researcher’s most significant jobs, and simply collecting it is not enough. To stand out from competition and ensure a job well done for clients, assigning meaning to the collected data is vital.

One way to assign meaning to data is to create an actionable insight. An insight is defined as “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Making an insight actionable means indexing future activities that should be taken and relaying the importance of why to decision makers. It is a way to put data into motion.

There are four tiers in an actionable insights pyramid. According to Forbes, here’s how each tier is constructed:

Data: the raw and unrefined facts that come in the form of numbers or text. Data can be quantitative, which is measured data, or qualitative, which is observed data.

Information: data that has been processed and given context. Often comes in the form of graphs or charts.

Insights: this happens when you analyze a piece of data and draw a conclusion about it.

Actionable Insights: the insights that cause action to happen rather than just simply answer a question. These make you rethink the situation and push you forward to find a new solution.

While creating insights about data can be very helpful, not all insights are actionable. Let’s look at Snapchat for an example. The amount of Snapchats someone sends in a day is raw numerical data. We could then turn that number into a bar graph and compare the amount of Snapchats sent the day before and the day after, putting the data into context. When analyzing these numbers, you can see whom you’ve Snapchatted and the amount of days in a row you’ve mutually Snapchatted each other, otherwise known as a “Snapchat Streak.” To some people, losing a streak is unacceptable, so if they hadn’t Snapchatted someone on the receiving end of their streak for that day, they would be driven into action to send a Snapchat to maintain the streak.

Simply put, an insight is a realization. Actionable insights make you do something about it. What makes us decide to do something about it; what exactly makes an insight actionable? That’s up to the decision makers.

There exists a myriad of answers to that question depending on the situation, but I believe each actionable insight has a few qualities in common:

  1. Relevance: the insight must be relevant to the goal of the decision maker. We make thousands of daily insights, but only those that drive us to complete a certain agenda are what lead us to action.
  2. Specificity: the insight must be specific. Think about the endless number of advertisements we are exposed to every day. Some are vague; others offer empty promises. Only those ads that specifically offer instructions on how to do something, benefitting you and your interests, will motivate you to act.
  3. Value: most importantly, the insight must have value. Something could be relevant and specific to a decision maker, but if there is no meaning behind the insight as to why someone should act upon it, then its importance is lost.

When it comes to building actionable insights, it’s essential to push past simple analysis and create “the why” so that a decision maker can take action and move forward.

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