photo of sticky notes and colored pens scrambled on table
June 24, 2021

Anna’s adventures in making a bigger impact (4 = insight generation)

By Paul Laughlin

Three weeks had flown by and now Anna was facing the prospect of leading a customer insight generation workshop. It would be the first time she had arranged, let alone led, such an event. As she reflected on that fact Anna sighed. Why did she get herself into these situations? Might her life be easier if she was less driven?

“Penny for your thoughts?” Anna’s ruminations were interupted by Bob returning to his desk.

“Oh, just thinking about this workshop I need to organise, Bob. No biggie.” But even as she brushed off his concern, Anna was sensing tension in her body. She had been convinced by the trainer on the Softer Skills training course she attended. Now she was worried that she’d overreached.

What is a Customer Insight Generation workshop?

“You ain’t fooling anyone with that line, girl” joked Bob. He was teasing her, but she appreciated his interest and his concerned smile. Behind all the banter, Bob was a good friend to have at work. “I know you told me already, but what the hell is a customer insight generation workshop anyway?” Bob raised an eyebrow and pulled one of his classic ‘quizzical camp gameshow host’ faces.

Anna laughed and relaxed. Bob does it again, she thought. “Ok ok, I suppose I’ll bother telling you again, but you better listen this time, Bob!”

“Oooo I love it when you go all assertive” Bob teased & settled down for today’s lesson.

“It’s a workshop to help us take our work beyond the output of a piece of analysis, to dig for a deeper insight into our customers. Basically, that means getting people together from different perspectives to review what we know already and think more deeply about why?” Anna paused. Bob nodded and seemed genuinely interested, which was a nice change.

Step 6 in the Softer Skills for Analysts model

“You remember that training course I keep going on about…”

“Do I ever!” Bob groaned playfully.

Ignoring the bait, Anna continued. “Well after we learned about completing the technical data & analytics work (to answer the real business need), we learnt about this stage. Learning to not be satisfied with identifying some predictable behaviour or characteristics of our customers. To have a restless curiosity to discover why our customers are saying and doing that. Apparently it’s a lot more common in the FMCG sector, where they used to not have as much data so had to really work it.”

Preparing for a Customer Insight Generation workshop

“Anyway, the long and the short of it is, having persuaded Steve that we need such a workshop, I’ve now got the job of organising it. It’s proving a lot more work than I realised.”

“Well, I’ve said before dear Anna, you and your big mouth!” Bob collapsed into giggles after that and Anne threw her empty sandwich box at him. “Ouch!”

“So…” Bob composed himself & suddenly became more serious. Steve was the Operations Director and he knew Anna needed to make a good impression here. She had been an ever considerate friend to Bob (especially when he broke up with Leo), so he wanted to be there for her. “…what are you finding difficult? Can I help? Seriously.”

3 steps to organising the workshop

Not for the first time, Anna appreciated being back in the office. Having this real conversation face to face with Bob (and being able to throw things at him) felt so much more supportive. She went on to explain that she had 3 immediate challenges:

  1. Garner all the relevant analytics, BI & research (that she considered robust) related to the business question
  2. Identifying and inviting the right people to attend the workshop
  3. Planning how she would run the agenda (including getting use of a big room & lots of brown paper)

Not only did she feel better (and clearer in her thoughts) from venting to Bob, he proved to be a godsend. Because he was, to put it mildly, sociable – Bob knew people all over the business. He was also a pretty good judge of who knew their stuff and who would ‘play nicely‘ in such a workshop. So, Bob took action 2 off Anna’s plate.

Over the next week, Anna was amazed how much got done. With the space in the office to spread out, she printed out and curated a help collection of potentially insightful analytics, reports & research. Bob did a brilliant job at encouraging the right people from across all silos to attend a workshop. Anna even had time to think through her agenda and reread her training notes.

Enjoying the workshop

Two weeks later, Bob & Anna were walking to the nearby sandwich shop and she was buzzing.

“Thanks again for helping me with that workshop, Bob, I still can’t believe how well it went. Everyone got stuck in and it actually felt like fun.”

“Well there was a lot of cutting things out, sticking them on the wall & writing on them” laughed Bob. “People always enjoy getting to be kids again!”

Making an impact

“Ha ha, you’re not wrong Bobbie” Anna laughed even more as Bob scowled at the name she knew he hated. “You were a brilliant help too, thanks for all you did. Plus, even though it was a load more work, I’d do it again. Just look at the result. The marketing team are going to design a new product based on that insight & the service team want us to help redesign their customer journey. Can you think of the last time our analysis changed so much in the business?”

“Too right” agreed Bob “plus it was more interesting to really think about why our customers do what they do. I enjoyed that day more than any other meetings we have. It didn’t hurt that Mario from Market Research was there to lend a hand!”

Anna punched Bob playfully and they continued to chuckle as they entered the shop. Right up until Anna saw Marcus (the CMO) turn around from the sandwich counter and make eye contact. His face looked like thunder. What had she done this time? (to be continued…)

I hope you enjoyed that latest instalment of Anna’s story. You can find more advice on how to run your own Customer Insight Generation Workshop in this post. If you’d value some help in running your own workshop, please get in touch.