By Suzana Pamplona of Johnson & Johnson. Suzana will be speaking at the Insight Innovation Exchange São Paulo.
I’ve always detested the word insights. I find it pretentious and shallow. I could not tell exactly why I felt that way. You might say that having a researcher soul, with a curious spirit, my job is to question everything, myself included.
Raising some hypothesis and then starting from the etymology of the word as part of my natural process of investigation, I’ve discovered that in + sight came from Middle English, related to a sense of ‘inner sight, wisdom’, something like “a sight with the eyes of the mind”, a mental vision or understanding. Sight, in turn, is defined as “perception or apprehension by means of the eyes” related to gesiht, gesihð which means “thing seen” in Old English.
Really? That intrigued me: something divine or related to a hidden nature? Something that can be seen? I also discovered that in Psychiatry it means the awareness, by a mentally ill person, that their mental experiences are not based on the external reality.
I truly believe that words matter and so I started to feel even worse about this particular one. I really could not relate what we have been recently doing in the contemporary, or so called new market research, with something close to just an inner, personal or divine vision.
Our main job is actually to dig into the rich reality that surrounds us, into what is out there, and not into ourselves, based on our umbilical thoughts. Our main source is that world of vast information and experiences which we observe, select, structure, analyze, interpret and present to cause impact in our fields. That inner orientation has little to do with an art that is all about interaction with the real world. Besides that, what we discover, in many cases, cannot be seen or apprehended without a foundation which enables us to see the invisible to hasty eyes.
Some might say that the insights term is a tentative to confront a positivist and mechanical way of defining what we do, to avoid the idea that this area could be completely neutral as pure science claims to be. As mature, honest and confident people, we are not afraid to admit that “there is no fact, just interpretation” in every field. And that is why insight seems to be an unfortunate term to describe what our job is.
After working for more than 20 years in this industry and having heard many tentative to explain and better sell what we do, I’ve got to enlightenment: if nothing were fact, but interpretation, what we do it is calledcuration. By Oxford this means: select, organize and present, using professional or expert knowledge.
In a world of information avalanche, one of the hardest parts of one’s job is to filter, to decide what to see and, mainly, what not to. For the sociologist Max Weber, our job is to unite the chaos of reality into understandable concepts, i.e., we must mine data to create meaning.
It is not about inner sight. Actually, behind every apparent “eureka” lays a lot of investigation and accumulated knowledge. Archimedes didn’t get to his theory just because he took a bath neither did Newtown on the day the apple felt on his head. Many others could have seen that, but they were the ones who had accumulated an arsenal of knowledge to get there.
I prefer to believe that we are not merely an area not just insights generators or guardians. We shouldn’t hold the power of information or make it restricted to few. It is about the opposite. Our party should have asense of influence and access. We are about creating impact for new perspectives, which could only happen if we really help to expand the cognitive universe of those we work with. I’d rather see us as champions of the knowledge democracy, shared with all.
Our purpose must be in service of the human cognitive expansion, sharing knowledge and providing the tools to a friendly access to it, so people could be better empowered to make their own synapses. Ultimately, we must inspire and influence meaningful decisions.
In this sense, I invite you to see ourselves as creators of meaning, to go beyond punctual information and anecdotal stories. We must generate sapientem, sapere which is related to “tasting” knowledge that ignites enlightenment, the one that brings light to uncovered opportunities.
I invite you to be knowledge curators, from Latin curare ‘take care of’ and from cura ‘care’, because we do care, we are concern about our impact. We have a responsibility.