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Creating a culture of insights

Members of the global consumer insight community address how to develop companies into insights-led organisations.

/ Introduction

At this month’s WFA Insight Forum, members of the global consumer insight community addressed how to develop companies into insights-led organisations.

Our guest speaker, Andy from WFA strategic partner Flamingo, shared on a strategy for making that happen.

This builds on the premise was that if you are not ‘in charge’ in your organisation, there is only one way culture can change – and that is from the bottom up.

Think of the major cultural changes in recent history – be it gender equality, the civil rights movement, same sex marriages –, or more mundane ones like the fact we’re allowed to wear trainers to work now. These cultural shifts didn’t happen because someone in power decided they would be a good thing. They started as ‘rebellious’ ideas, challenging the dominant cultural norms and spreading virally through groups of people.

So how do we achieve an insights revolution?

  1. Think like a subculture

Stop complaining about the lack of senior sponsorship internally. Stop thinking that your new centralised insight hub will change behaviours or attitudes. It won’t. Instead, think about cultural change through this equation:

Start by incubating your own culture.  Develop your team’s values, identity, language, tools, practices, etc.). And then begin to amplify it out.

  1. Focus on the viral effect of powerful ideas

Of course amplification is easier with senior stakeholder buy-in, i.e. a top-down ‘hierarchical diffusion’ approach. But often more relevant to insight teams is the concept of ‘contagious diffusion’ – the viral effect of cultural transmission of ideas. These ideas transfer more quickly when everyone can see value in the ideas and also when it’s easy for people to see what colleagues are doing.

Members of the Insight Forum shared some of their own approaches to impacting contagious diffusion. These mostly focused on creating experiences, as well as nurturing people to help socialise and amplify their ideas:

  • Dial up the voice of the customer by sharing recordings of calls to communicate specific insights. Or “mandate” the frequency with which colleagues should speak directly with customers, enabling them to uncover their own insights;
  • Develop a ‘consumer safari’ either by ensuring colleagues have to work at point of sale or, in one case, by hiring actors briefed to represent different audiences to aid immersion;
  • Create an insight summit, open to the whole company – exposing them to CI trends and approaches, for example by providing an “introduction to anthropology”.
  • Create consumer insight: Identify the right people within your organisation, often sitting in the biggest markets, to help diffuse your ideas;
  • Develop future insight advocates: Consider “spoiling” your potential advocates, for example by investing heavily in them at the induction stage. If these up-and-coming individuals are sold on the insight function, you ultimately “create implants in the business”.

  1. Changing culture takes time

If history and anthropology have thought us anything, it is that culture won’t change in a day. On the contrary, culture is hard to change. It will take time and effort and it will require a lot of resilience. But it’s probably the only thing that will make the difference in creating an insights-driven organisation.

This blogpost was co-authored by Andy Davidson, Chief Strategy Officer at Flamingo, WFA’s strategic partner for insights. If you are interested to find out more on their work around harnessing culture to impact change, contact Simone Williams.

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For more information or questions, please contact Robert Dreblow

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