When defining facts and insights, I find myself in a gray area where each term seems to coincide. To best make sense of this gray area, my immediate thoughts bring forth an image of the left and right hemispheres of the brain; the creative, visual-referencing right brain and the logical, organizational left brain. Of course this is merely a metaphor for thinking about facts and insights, for they do, in fact, involve both sides of the brain.
Facts are like the left side of the brain. In its simplest definition, a fact is something that is observable and indisputably known to be true as evidenced by research and study.
Insights, on the other hand, are a bit more complex, which is why I envision its processes occurring in the right side of the brain. Julia Vanderput, a strategist at Newfangled, I feel beautifully defined insights: insights illuminate what is assumed to be true. This word ‘illuminate’ has really stuck with me. Insights transform dry facts into profound truths. They illuminate the ‘why’ behind decisions and behaviors and make sense of what people say and what they actually do. Insights are new ways of looking at some of the most ordinary things. They make someone say, “I never thought of it that way before.”
So now you’re thinking, Ana, you clarified the difference so what is this gray area you speak of? If facts and insights were in a relationship, it would be a codependent one. Facts need insights and insights need facts. The foundation of an insight comprises a series of facts; the insight’s job is to make sense of those facts in a sensible, compelling way. Without facts, insights have no job. Without insights, facts are, well, facts.
Take the Got Milk? campaign for instance. The facts to consider are that milk is a commonly purchased grocery item and that people typically drink milk with other food items. The insight was that people tend to not have milk when they need it most. Thus, Got Milk?
Fact, fact, INSIGHT!
Why does any of this matter? As planners (though I’m not a planner.. yet), we have to understand the basis of the difference between facts and insights if we hope to ever reach a thought-provoking insight that could change the entire face of a brand. I would suggest taking a moment every day to thank your left and right brains for providing you the tools to produce new and illustrious insights.