Broadway and the Art of Discovering & Delivering Insights


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After playing in a pit orchestra for 35 shows in 20 years, you start to view the world through a thick Broadway lens. As a CX professional by day, that can be both good and bad.

One Monday morning I sat preparing an executive-level results presentation for a Fortune 100 client, pounding coffee to recover from a long weekend of back-to-back performances of “Fiddler On The Roof.” There’s a Fiddler scene when Tevye announces the marriage of his daughter to the wealthy butcher, causing the tavern to erupt with uproarious drink, song, and dance. I envisioned my presentation producing the same result. Imagine, bringing the data to life so well, that on my last slide (“in conclusion…”) the executives jump onto tables, spilling beer from large goblets, and sing a rousing rendition of “Lechaim – To Life!”

That remains my dream. “But that’s impossible,” I’m often told. It seems that CX and market research presentations are perceived to induce the opposite effect: checking email, multi-tasking, boredom and even sleep. But is it really impossible? Have I ever seen it happen?

Well, I’ve seen it get close, very close, although granted without the tabletop dancing and beer. The CEO of a major consumer products company once told me “that was the best market research presentation I’ve ever seen” (for a CEO, that’s pretty close to uproarious song and dance!). The VP of Strategy at one of the largest tech companies in the world once confessed that “two years later your study is still being used, much more so than the one from (insert name of mega consulting company with mega price tag)– because the way you told the story made it stick.”

I’ve always been curious as to why this is unusual. Curious why “insights” often remain elusive despite the deafening roar and plea for “more insights.” I embarked on a quest to dissect presentations and reports that had hit it out of the park and compare those with presentations that had gone terribly wrong – a quest to contrast the most successful client engagements with those that fell flat.

What did I discover? It boils down to four critical ingredients to delivering on that Holy Grail we call “insight.” Those four ingredients sound simple but are easier said than done: (1) Understanding Context, (2) Design, (3) Discovery, and (4) Communicating.

I’ve written and presented about these in the past under the title Insights on Insights. All four ingredients are critical, but here’s the catch: the analyst or researcher can absolutely nail the first three, and spend a lot of the client’s money in the process, but if they fail on the last one – telling the story – the work is for naught. It’s hard – very hard – to really discover real insight from data, but at the end of the day it doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not communicated the right way to the right audience.

On my quest I also started really noticing the striking differences between my day gig (CX professional) and my night gigs (theater and jazz drumming). The way people did things; their mindsets, processes, and the techniques that went into telling the story, were very different between the two sides – an executive presentation, and an opening night for Les Miserables.

That difference came down to the yin & yang of science and art. My CX research world was heavily biased to the left-brain (analytics, the scientific method). And rightfully so. But, if we dialed up the “art” side of the scale even a tad, could we improve the discovery and delivery of real insights instead of just data?

The answer was yes. As analysts, researchers, and CX professionals, supplementing our strong left-brained skills with more right-brained concepts and techniques borrowed from other disciplines can produce big effects. I’ve presented these to Fortune 500 clients across many sectors, and love hearing from them later when they say, “hey, this really works!”

These discovery and storytelling concepts will be even more important in the future. I often tell university students that in this day and age of information overload, data is plentiful but the scarcity is in making sense of that data and communicating it the right way to the right people. If you can get your brain’s left and right sides to work together better, you will never want for work in the big-data age.

Luckily for you, MaritzCX University is offering a Story Telling with Data class next month in Chicago. During the two-day training seminar, you will build skills in story telling, data visualization, and creating crisp and compelling messaging that will help in your current job role and build up your resume for the future. Sign up now for June 27-28, and learn more about the other great brand-neutral CX and VoC classes offered through MCXU.

I can’t guarantee your audience will erupt with uproarious drink, song, and dance on your next results presentation. But you’ll come away with a toolbox full of tips and rudimental techniques that will get you a lot closer to your executives entering into a rousing chorus of “Lechaim – To Life!”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ed Stalling
Ed Stalling is Chief storyteller, aka Sr. Director of Business Management, at MaritzCX. For the past 24 years Ed has been a Research Manager discovering and delivering insights to Fortune 100 clients, retaining and growing major accounts, building business with global clients in the technology sector, improving company ability to discover and communicate insights globally, designing and delivering an extensive training program around the ingredients of insight, coaching a sales force, and aligning marketing and sales. He is passionate about advancing the art involved in insight discovery and communications, and is utterly convinced that market research and customer experience can be creative and fun.


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