February 18, 2016

Is variety the spice of your best insights?

By Paul Laughlin

varietySometimes you just want to mix it up a bit & that’s just what this customer insight ‘variety’ post offers.

Not that I’m suggesting our relationships theme this month is being followed here 😉 Rather, I was inspired by a particularly enjoyable episode of the “More or Less” podcast by Tim Harford. In this one, Tim explores a whole range of statistics.

From debunking commercially motivated stats in the news, about women taking selfies & students using Sugar Daddy sites, to reviewing how you estimate the amount of plastic or fish in the ocean. A bit like the “One Show”, far from being distracting, the variety was the point. Here’s that episode for you to enjoy:

BBC Radio 4 – More or Less, Selfies, Sugar Daddies and Dodgy Surveys

Tim Harford examines junk surveys, including claims that women are taking selfies for five-and-a-half hours a day and that thousands of students signed up to a sugar daddy website. Advertising dressed up as research has inspired us this week.

After enjoying that debunking of poor survey methods, or selective interpretation, my attention turned to a variety of other stories for Customer Insight readers.

It would be difficult to find a wider variety of books, on Behavioural Economics, than that offered by the Behavioural Economics Booklist. This useful resource is published on Pinterest by Prime Decision (over 100 and counting). However, taking into account the proven effect of ‘choice overload’ suppressing action, they also share a handy top 5 books to inspire change. These are all worth reading and should inspire ideas for experiments or new habits to establish this year:


Next, my undisciplined thoughts turned to how windy it has been this winter. It seems we have a choice of wind & rain or icy cold. So, tenuous link coming… I was interested to see this data visualisation work on seasonal wind forecasts (seamless, right? 🙂 In all seriousness, this work for Project Ukko is genuinely important. Using the power of data visualisation to enable the spotting of patterns in seasonal wind prediction data, in order to improve those forecasts. Watching the video will give you a better feel for the power of this interactive data visualisation to improve forecasting for the energy sector & traders (not just display it):

Project Ukko

The user interface presents foremost a thematic map with wind prediction data visualized in line symbols (multi-dimensional glyphs) for around 100’000 regions of the world. These encode prediction skill (i.e., how well the prediction model performed on historic data in that region) through opacity, predicted wind speed through line thickness and predicted trend of wind speed in line tilt and color.

So far, we’ve touched on selfie addicts, excessively long booklists and movies of the wind. What could be next? How could this post possibly get better?

Well, as things are risking becoming ridiculous, I think it’s time for Donald Trump. I’ll side step making any political comments & instead draw your attention to this article from the researchers treasure chest that is Quirks magazine. In the latest issue, Alex Xiaoguang Zhu reviews the role of emotions in messaging strategies (in both politics & business). He convincingly shows that emotional messaging, proven to drive inertia, can be part of an effective campaign strategy. Perhaps the man with the big hair has a plan:


Before we finish this post (which with Selfies, Wind & Donald Trump could be at risk of appearing silly), let’s get serious. Another reader contacted me this week to share a post on a more sobering topic. It’s the threat of social engineering in hacking, or social hacking. More an more businesses, especially smaller ones with smaller budgets, can be at risk of this insidious form of attack. This article usefully collates the advice of a number of leading IT writers & leaders on how best to avoid the problem & protect your business:

Social hacking: the threat it poses to your business | Twin Systems

Social hacking is the criminal act of manipulating people to surrender confidential information. In most cases, the perpetrators are looking for opportunities to take advantage of vulnerable or naïve people, by deceiving them into handing over sensitive information. This information can be used against them and provide a gateway for hackers to gain access to […]

Well, even if you didn’t find all of the above interesting, I hope you got something from today’s Pot Pourri.

Thanks to those readers who have got touch to share content they think would help others. That is always welcome. Have a good week & I hope you’ve found a way to spice it up, with a bit of variety. Do let us know what you find most interesting & any topics you’d like more on.