What is an Actionable Insight?

At Simply Strategy, we're in the business of solving problems by finding actionable strategic insights for our clients. The challenge for some is understanding “what is an insight?” and “what is an actionable insight?” The ultimate prize is finding “actionable strategic insights.”  

Let’s talk more about insights and finding actionable strategic insights.

What is Known?

Consider a marathon. Before even starting, you must prepare and assess the course. You must first understand your baseline – what is already known. How long have you been training? What equipment do you already own? From here, you can identify what is unknown, define a research methodology and start the search for insight.

Is There a Gap in Understanding?

Identifying an insight often starts with a problem, typically one that is not fully understood. An insight shifts understanding in a novel way, identifying areas where the facts, people or expectations are not aligned or where inconsistencies may exist in knowledge or perceptions. Knowing the baseline is important, as is having a research partner fully capable of understanding the problem and identifying real insight. In order to set your training plan, you need to know how fast and how far you can go on the first mile. You wouldn’t try to run all 26.2 on the first go. 

Is it a Fact or an Insight? 

Acquiring knowledge itself is not necessarily the source of insight. Insights reveal a depth of understanding beyond what stakeholders already know or can readily ascertain. That’s why getting out of the echo chamber of internal input and organizational knowledge is critical. Objective and outside inquiry reveal to stakeholders what they did not know.

What is the Consumer Experience?

Few things are as powerful as understanding the experiences of a person, which makes consumer experience research a rich source of insight. Insights touch upon issues that no one realized were issued. Understanding the journey a stakeholder, customer or client takes in discovering a product or making a purchase can uncover obstacles and opportunities that greatly impact success. That is an insight. You can’t know if you will even like running until you try it. The experience of running teaches you more about what to improve than just thinking about it conceptually.  

Is it Actionable?

Not every insight is actionable. However revolutionary the insight might be, the alignment of resources, stakeholders, and motivation is required to act on strategic opportunities uncovered by insights. As a runner, it would be great to have rockets attached to your shoes. Sure. Is that feasible? Most likely not. Understanding organizational constraints to the degree of possibility is key to thinking creatively about how researchers and strategists identify actionable opportunities.  

Is it a Strategic Insight?

Some insights lead to changes that can be made quickly with immediate impact—they are tactical insights. Imagine a runner changing to better shoes, or eating a banana before a run instead of an apple, to improve their performance. In our world, research might undercover simple usability improvements to a website or language choices to improve effectiveness. Typically, tactical insights emerge relatively quickly and tend to be clearly connected to a narrow question and problem at hand.

Strategic insights identify broad organizational or systemic opportunities that do not have clearly defined solutions. Often, they better define the problem and point to strategies for an implementation plan, leading to the final objective rather than a singular action or tactical response. For this reason, investment in actionable strategic insights is the most challenging, while the process often requires an investment in resources and stakeholder support for implementation.

Consider the difference between a minor change in a runner’s equipment or a long-term change in that runner’s technique. From a real-world perspective, consider identifying from customer journey mapping, the strategic opportunities to improve the customer experience by shifting emphasis, teams, or resources.  

Lots of folks think about running a marathon, but few complete one, and even fewer compete. Not everyone has the dedication needed for detailed research, the passion to dig through that research until insights are identified, or the expertise to creatively implement actionable strategic insights.

Bringing in a running coach or partner who can help you identify and implement actionable insights can help make your goals go from aspirations to reality. Let us be your coach – we will help you identify and implement actionable insights to take your goals from aspiration to reality.

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