What is an insight? Does it matter?

Insight is a word that is often used, and abused, in business but what does it mean?  You might think that it doesn’t really matter exactly what is "an insight".  But since nowadays the claim of insight is everywhere we need to make sure we recognise the real thing, so we confront it when we see it.
Insight is when you uncover the true nature of something.  The way things really are or the way the trends are moving.  Sometimes this can conflict with the way the business is today and so it is inconvenient or at least uncomfortable, especially if the business is doing well.  But we know we must confront it, since it it is always an uphill struggle to work against reality.  We can all name once successful businesses that failed to react to changing trends until it was too late.
Insight is a breakthrough.   While often "obvious" with the benefit of hindsight, at the time it causes you to stop and reassess how you do things.  There should be a bit of an "aha" moment.   Some of the most powerful insights can come from our own observations and ideas rather than formal research.  For example, the fact that people want "better for you" products is not new news.  We have been involved in developing these types of products in many food and drink markets for nearly 25 years now.  The one thing that we continually see (other!) businesses ignore is the fact that not many people will buy "better for you" if it doesn’t also have "great taste".  Once you know you need both you get breakthrough ideas like smoothies.
Insight solves problems.  At first an inconvenient insight might seem to create problems based on the way we do business today, but true insight also highlights the way forward and how we might succeed.  Figuring out what is the minimum acceptable level of service for an airline has enabled Easyjet to strip it’s business down to the essentials and recently post record profits despite a reduction in average fares and increases in fuel costs.
Insight is easily understood and communicated.  People "get it" straight away and easily know if what they are doing is working with or against the insight.  In fact clearly articulated insight helps everyone know whether an idea is a good one or not and so makes decision making much quicker and easier.
Insight creates change.  It is relevant to the business today and it’s success in the future.  People know they ignore it at their peril. 
We have talked previously about the role of the internal entrepreneur in large organisations.  These are people who push their ideas with conviction and energy and don’t let obstacles and objections get in their way.  Listen to their insights, give them the tools to create insights and you are half way to creating the growth you need.