There is the old saying in business, “Good, cheap or fast - choose any two.” It’s always had an immutable feeling to it, even as massive changes in technology and culture rocked traditional business processes. It’s time to pronounce this classic belief disrupted as well. Working eight years in a small agency and the last year with lots of startups has taught me “good/cheap/fast” insights are absolutely possible. It’s a matter of learning how to put existing data in the context of the cultural systems in which it was generated.
Cheap: Data is no longer hard to find.
In the past, gathering and storing relevant, usable data was costly. Not just in terms of money, but also with regard to the actual time and effort it took to collect and process it. Entire industries existed due to this. Today, thanks to our ability to create and manage data across the business supply chain, we do not suffer from a lack of data. In fact, many marketers will tell you they have too much. So a key to “good/cheap/fast” is first curating the wealth of quality data and information that already exists, whether it be secondary sources, syndicated studies or internally generated data. In other words, use what you have and don’t reinvent the wheel.
Fast: Analysis can occur quickly.
Using those sources, you can undertake a meta-analysis to quickly reveal outliers that indicate patterns. A meta-analysis is a systematic review of multiple research and data sources in order to reveal key patterns across disparate results. Those outliers are the areas that will provide rich, differentiating perspectives - but they are not the insights. True insight comes from understanding that outlier through the context of the human behavior and cultural systems which created it.
Good: Studying culture reveals the best insights.
Culture is the holistic system in which we all live, work and relate to one another. And if culture is a system, that means it has inputs, outputs and relationships between elements that can be deconstructed and studied in a systematic and hierarchical way. Begin by examining transcultural elements as the foundation (technology, historical events, cognitive processes, etc.) and then progress to situational and environmental aspects - peer groups, kinship, physical environment, knowledge transfer, etc. These are rich areas of analysis that will lead to differentiating insights and ideas.
Good/Cheap/Fast - Choose all three.
The greatest value of this approach isn't just about resource consumption, it is more about focus. In this rapid-prototyping, agile business world we live in, there just simply isn’t time or money to waste on extraneous activity. Planning needs to cut to the chase and help a team build ideas fast in order to get to market and start learning. As you learn, the cycle then repeats itself, reducing the uncertainty in the additionals decisions to be made about the brand’s direction and ultimately finding the market sweet spot efficiently. Thats win/win/win.