Think Executive, Speak Leadership

Research Narrative’s SI-SUITE™ offers researchers & analysts advice on how to be heard and add value.

One of the things we’ve heard as trusted advisors is resounding frustration at the circumstance of data dumping – an escalating trend stemming from having more data and less time.  This trend has often left senior executives with the onus of sifting through “findings” to discover what they mean for their business – Or worse, the data dumping could lead to the information not being used altogether, as doing the researcher’s job and their own can be too cumbersome.

Not only does data dumping run the risk of the information not being used, but it also impedes decision-making.  You see, the key to good decision-making is not simply having knowledge, but rather understanding.  Analysts aren’t just data architects – they’re storytellers who craft insights. And those insights need to be digestible so that audiences can understand easily and take that learning into conversations in the hall, future meetings and ultimately into practice.

So how can you be a storyteller who has impact?  It all starts with these five understandings . . . 

  • Understanding #1:  A finding is not an insight. Find the insight.
    • Common complaint: They tell me everything they’ve asked in the survey instead of telling me what’s important for my business.
    • The solution: Don’t just state the facts.  Ask yourself what does this fact really mean to their business?  How can this information be helpful?  What impact could it have?  If it isn’t meaningful or doesn’t help answer the business questions at hand, leave it out of your discussion.  Also, an insight may come from what is not immediate apparent.  Look to see what isn’t happening, who’s not interested, etc.?  Sometimes looking at things from an opposite view can be the most compelling.
  • Understanding #2:  Edit yourself. Tell them what’s important.
    • Common complaint: This isn’t math class!  I don’t need to see all of your work.
    • The solution: Learn to edit yourself and convey what is important to the audience, not what is interesting to you. You’re not there to justify your intelligence, but rather, to convey organizational insight. Test run your insights on someone from a different team. Learn what they think is boring or in the weeds. And then cut it out.
  • Understanding #3: On the other end of the spectrum, don’t shorthand insights that merit conversation.
    • Common complaint:  They go too high level and don’t give me enough detail.  I need to know why you are saying what you’re saying.  And my board needs to see some proof, too.
    • The solution: Don’t just point to a graph and tell someone you’re right – be open to discussion, and offer insights into why you believe you’re right – and why that should matter to them.
  • Understanding #4: Don’t assume that you’re smarter than senior executives. There’s a reason they made it to senior executive, and it’s probably not because they’re an ignorant hack.
    • Common complaint: They think that they have to “dumb it down” for me.   I’m not dumb, I’m busy. I have a lot of other things to think about, in addition to this piece of research.
    • The solution: Cut to the chase, but don’t dumb it down. Being condescending is a great way to communicate that your ego gets in the way of offering insight.
  • Understanding #5:  Know their business and have industry context.
    • Common complaint: They think they’ve discovered something interesting, when they just haven’t learned the industry or category.
    • The solution: Executives want to know how to fix the problems that you may have unearthed during research.

Don’t just present a problem, but provide solutions.  But care should be taken when making recommendations.  Without a proper understanding of their business, recommendations run the risk of being meaningless, or even costly to executives.  Get to know their business, so you can help them come to a resolution that is meaningful and impactful.

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