Connecting the dots

You have worked hard!

Suppose you have been using the ‘insight extraction approach’ and the template from a previous blog post to extract one or more insights from your study data.

Every time you completed an insight, you may have asked yourself ‘now what’ to move on to the next. Your insight extraction journey was a treasure hunt. But now you’re reaching a saturation point. You think you have seen enough, and you think you are ready to answer the research question and face the business challenge. It is time to share the insights with your stakeholders. What’s next?

Connect the dots.

Next is turning your pile of insights into a story, starting by connecting the dots.

Each of your insights is an insight “dot”, covering one relevant and meaningful learning, leading up to the next.

Now that you’re here, the simplest way to build your story is by “connecting the dots” following the path of your discovery process. If you used the answers to the questions ‘now what’ to lead you through the insight extraction process, it was already a rudimentary story.

Prepare the sandwich.

However, the story lacks context, and your stakeholders wouldn’t understand your story without seeing some context first. So, the next thing to do sandwich the story: add an introduction and a finish.

Add the introduction.

In the introduction, you add a brief description of the background and business objective of the study, –very importantly– the research question, a brief overview of the study design to answer the research question (method, sample and so on), and again –very importantly–, an overview of the key learnings in the story.

Wrap up.

Your stakeholders now have a good impression of what you have seen and learned but you still need to bring it home. The ultimate goal of any study is to answer the research question, and this still needs to be done. That’s what you will do in the wrap up, for a lack of a better word.

You repeat, one more time, what the stakeholders just learned, to be perfectly clear, then answer the research question (“concept 1 wins”, “the number is 42”, “left, definitely left”), discuss it in today’s and the future business context, and may do some recommendations of what to do next.

Take them by the hand.

This is a very important step in insight activation. One way we have taken our stakeholders by the hand was by (1) telling them what they were going to learn, (2) taking them through those learnings or insights one by one, and (3) then tell them one more time what they have just learned.

And then look your stakeholders in the eye to see if the light of understanding turns on and if it says, “now I got it, now I know what to do next”. If not, you’ll have go back and repeat some of the insights and see if you can take them there. If not, you have some additional digging or explaining to do.

Scope your story.

Not all insights are at the same level. Some are at a higher level than others, carrying a bigger part of the answer. The lower-level insights may be refinements of the higher-level ones, sharing additional answers to the questions ‘why’ or ‘how else’. The key insight then defines a chapter in your story, and higher-level insights carry the story.

If this happens, you may want to organize your insights in chapters and around themes. You cluster your insights around the theme, turn the cluster into a chapter and call out the theme as the key learning and title of the chapter.

You now have your story.

It may turn out that not all insights or dots are equally relevant to answer the research question. Some insights are ‘need to know’, others are just ‘nice to know’. I prefer to focus on the ‘need-to-know’ to keep the story clean, focused, and succinct. The rest can go into the appendix or be left out.

You may now push back and say that the client wants to see the original data or the stack of tables following the question-and-answer format. That’s fine, you can add it to the appendix, or if it is too much, put them in a separate report.

Also, you may not use all the data available in the study. That’s okay, you focused on (your interpretation of) the research question. The original data are still available, and so is the table report or the appendix with the question-answer slides. If someone else has a different take on the story, they can build a different story. Of course, I would still advise using the same structured way to build the story.

Finally, all that is needed to understand the answer to the research question, needs to be in the body of the story and part of the storyline.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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