It’s Not What You Don’t Know… Insight is Key

It’s what you know that just isn’t true. Mark Twain said it more elegantly:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

We’re talking about insight here.

What is Insight?

There’s a big difference between information and insight. Information is basic data, while the definition of insight is information that has been processed and analyzed to be useful. In business, insight is intelligence that helps you decide.

To have insight into business means to go beyond just understanding your data. It’s about analyzing it and using it to improve your products, services, or processes. It’s about making connections to the inner nature of your customers and seeing patterns you can use to your advantage.

In business, we define insight as “a sudden clear understanding of the relationships between things.” It’s that “Aha!” moment when everything suddenly makes sense. Businesses achieve success by having insight into their customers, their industry, and their own company.

Where Do I Get Insight?

Great insight can come from anywhere - customers, employees, competitors, market research, data analytics... really anywhere. The important thing is to be open to finding it, and then knowing what to do with it once you have it.

Insight is a critical part of any business. It allows companies to take their data and information and turn it into knowledge that can improve their products or services.

By being open to insight and understanding how to use it, you can give your business a competitive edge. So don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, analyze your data, collect more examples, or do some market research. Your business will thank you for it!

Stress in Business

How Do I Get Insight?

Insight can come from anywhere - customers, employees, competitors, market research, data analytics... really anywhere. The important thing is to be open to finding it, and then knowing what to do with it once you have it.

Insight is a critical part of any business. It allows companies to take their data and information and turn it into knowledge that can improve their products or services.


A common source of great insight is market research. We can do this in-house or outsourced to a third party. You should conduct research on your target market, your competition, and your own business operations. Market research gives you the tools and ability to collect and evaluate the behavior of your prospects and consumers. Other ways to gain business insight include talking to customers and employees (both of whom can offer fresh insights), attending industry events, and reading trade publications.

Believing something to be true without deep insight and continuous curiosity, fueled by an intense desire to learn and to know more, is fraught with peril.

Investment in Insight

As a leader, seek to learn more. You should be in the market, talking to your customers and partners. You should spend a minimum of 10% of your advertising budget on research.

Why 10%, you may ask? Well, doesn’t it make sense to spend ten cents out of every dollar to learn what will actually grow your business?

Of course, not all research is equal, and it is possible (even easy) to do research that is meaningless (or worse, harmful), by arriving at misleading conclusions about consumer behavior. That’s why the most important person on your team, whether it be an employee or an agency, are the people that are getting you this insight.

How Do I Use Insight?

You should build business planning and strategy development upon a foundation of insight. No business endeavor of consequence should ever be started without a foundational insight as its guiding light.

Once you have fresh insights, you can use them to make informed decisions about your business plan and strategy. The insight will help you identify opportunities and threats, set goals, and allocate resources. It’s the difference between deciding based on guesswork and data. This can help your business in several ways, including:

  • Helping you to better understand your customers and their needs
  • Allowing you to target specific areas for improvement
  • Giving you a competitive advantage against other businesses


In order to make the most out of your insight, it is important to be proactive. Try asking yourself questions such as What does this insight mean for my business? How can I change my strategy based on this information? What are the potential risks and opportunities associated with this insight? By taking the time to consider these questions, you can ensure that you are making the best possible decisions for your business.

Insight is a valuable tool that can help you improve your business. By taking the time to understand how to employ this information, you can give yourself a competitive advantage and better serve your customers.

Coca-Cola Customers

You’re Not the Customer

Back in 1998, when I was managing The Coca-Cola Company’s business in Hungary–Doug Ivester, then the CEO of the company, came to visit our market. I was having dinner with him on the night that he arrived, and I realized, for the entire meal, he did nothing but ask me questions.

Not only did he ask a lot of pretty challenging questions, but he listened carefully to my answers, often following up with additional queries after each reply.

At one point, I replied to one of his questions and he asked, “How do you know that?” I replied that my experience in the market and the industry informed my understanding. He looked at me deadpan and said, “Mark, you are not the customer.”

Regardless of what you think you know, you really know nothing unless you have gotten the answer directly, in a timely fashion, and without bias — from an actual customer. That’s the essence of insight.

Doug was an outstanding business leader and I think that his legacy at The Coca-Cola Company understates his deep and abiding understanding of some core fundamentals of business. Doug has immense mercantile intelligence.

He is a finance guy that rose to the top of one of the world’s leading companies, entirely because of his ability to understand, at the core, those things that truly matter.

In my experience running an agency, I often have similar conversations with business leaders–CEOs, Presidents, Marketing VPs, etc.

Early in my conversations with these leaders, I try to gain a sense of how they think, what informs their wisdom, how in touch they are with the market and their customers–and how much mercantile intelligence they exhibit.

One of the quickest ways to learn how well informed a leader is - is by asking them questions about their brand, their product, their competition, their customer, etc. And then, listening carefully to their answers.

Is their perspective informed by insight? Have they done research into why things are happening as they are? Are they truly curious about their consumer and their market?

Some leaders spend a lot of time talking about themselves. They want to tell you about their experience, their education, their knowledge, and their past successes. While sometimes this can be interesting, it is often a key indicator of the fact that they have dug themselves deep into a quagmire of confirmation bias.

They think they know a lot because they have been around for a long time and they have been successful in the past (to varying degrees, of course). When I ask, “really, how do you know that?” Or, “that’s interesting. What insight led you to that insight?” I almost always get some version of “Oh, I’ve been doing this a long time and I really understand this business.”


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In Conclusion

Hire and train people to value insight and who have the education and training in how to arrive at deep insights that are free of bias and which inform the organization on facts that are useful and actionable. They need to help you answer key questions about the who, what, when, where, and how–of your market. Those team members should help you make excellent decisions that are informed by insight.

They are illuminating the path for the organization.

Invest deeply in your own curiosity and insight. Seek insight that will inform your decision-making. Don’t drink your own “Kool-Aid.” Recognize that your experience and education bring a Jungian “shadow” along with them. Anything that you think you know is probably preventing you from knowing something that you don’t.

Deploy Insight in Your Business

Asymmetric, led by former Army Delta Force operator and corporate executive Mark Hope, can help you implement these ideas in your business. You can contact Mark by email at, or by telephone at +1 866-389-4746, or you can schedule a complimentary strategy discussion by clicking here. You can read all of his articles on Medium.

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Mark Hope

Mark A. Hope is a co-founder and Partner of Asymmetric Marketing – a unique agency specializing in building high-performing sales and marketing systems, campaigns, processes, and strategies for small businesses. Asymmetric has extensive experience with organizations across many industry segments. If you would like some help in implementing ideas like these in this article, feel free to give Mark a call at 844-494-6903 or by email at Read Mark's other work on Medium.

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