Are you asking the right questions?

In today’s “big data” environment, it’s easy to get caught up boiling the ocean in search of a powerful insight that inspires strategies and tactics that lead to social conversations, deeper brand affinity and ultimately increased sales. We’ve come to believe this is possible through the powerful and evolving ability to capture and processvast amounts of data.

The theory is that with sophisticated enough analytics, there is an insight in all the this data, just waiting to be found. Yet many marketers tell me that after some early success, truly meaningful insights remain elusive. It is not that the data or the analysis are deficient, because we are swimming in data and there have never been so many analytical tools at our disposal. The problem is we aren't always asking ourselves the right questions. 

We cannot use big data and sophisticated analytics to answer the same myopic questions we’ve asked and answered before, and expect different answers. Thomas Kuhn states it best in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, “science does not progress by simply adding new data to existing theories.” The same is true for brands - little progress will be made by simply analyzing more data using more sophisticated tools. Truly breakthrough thinking will occur when we start with different questions.

How do we begin to ask different questions? There’s no single answer, but the simplest way to start is by setting aside your “sixth-sense” about what will and will not work. As marketers, we have amassed a great deal of insight about customers based on data, observation and experience. While this ability is invaluable, it is also a bias that precludes new thinking and ideas.  

You can train yourself to recognize this bias, which enables the different perspectives which lead to new, more powerful insights. This is where big data is at its best.