The best insight geeks are those who are given ownership of business problems as they are seen as true experts. Alan Sugar and his business world is a great example of someone being given problems throughout his business life cycle but provides solutions very quickly. He has the confidence to feedback opinions and solutions early in the lifecycle that can mean more focused analysis and can improve your credibility as the right person for the job.
Insight geekiness by day, and Apprentice addict by night (and possibly food addict by day and night) is probably what I’d write on my Tinder profile if I was still single.
I am not one of those guys who watches food documentary’s or programmes but I do try and learn from different professions to see how their role can relate to research and insight.
For those who watch The Apprentice or have seen Allan Sugar’s businesses grow and grow. Lord Sugar’s approach to problem solving, project management and client management is rather intriguing.
For those who don’t know, the apprentice helps to find the next GEM of a business in the United Kingdom, by setting individuals tasks to complete. At the end of the process, one lucky person is given £250,000 + the advise and support from Alan Sugar. As well as this, Lord Sugar helps businesses to transform and sometimes helps them to rebuild. For the latter, Lord Sugar has already analysed the first 25% of a business before he has even seen their director. Soon as they do meet, he knows the business inside out, he already has solutions to solve issues. Remember this for later on.
Lord Sugar then holds a showdown meeting with the business to help them with their issues. He has a frank conversation about what he has found so far and inevitably this is where he also discovers what the potential barriers to implementation are.
In the meeting the directors express their opinions about the reasons why Lord Sugars suggestions are invalid or will not work – “We have a lack of skill sets to do that” or “we don’t have the money”. These barriers are then tackled by Lord Sugar throughout the rest of their mentoring.
Analysis Stage continued…
Lets not forget the businesses product/s. Lord Sugar will inevitably check the products for quality. Although Lord Sugar has done most of his analysis of the problem upfront, 20% of it will happen up until the last moment.
What can we learn from Lord Sugar?
I have attempted to think about what I think Lord Sugars approach to project management and problem solving is.
Step 1. Identify & Analyse 3 key success factors
Lord Sugar identifies 3 key areas. These are the three success factors that he thinks are the most critical factors in the success of any businesses. And after reading his autobiography he never deviated from focusing on these three critical areas.
Cost effectiveness, quality, profit margin
- Cost effectiveness – How do you produce something that is cost effective for your business to be sustainable?
- Quality – How do you produce a product that suits a business values?
- Profit margin – How can you make the most amount of profit from each product you sell?
When we as insight geeks start projects do we take a step back and choose three key variables that we believe solve at least 80% of the problem?
For example, imagine a client comes to you with the business question
“How do I improve our products to generate more business leads and profit?”
We should recognise what the three key success factors are immediately. We can respond quickly if we have taken the time to think through what the most common business questions our client gives us are and what the three key success factors for each are.
Step 2. Feedback on the key success factors ASAP
For me the most important learning I take away from Lord Sugar is his ability to be seen as an expert consultant and not just a project manager or a support person. He is very quickly given control by the thought leaders including government and seen as a credible expert. How is he able to achieve this?
Of course, it helps that he has a reputation and a television programme. However, his ability to start feeding back his opinions instantly adds to his credibility. Alan Sugar can do this because he focuses in on the three pre-determined critical factors and he insists on feeding back on them as soon as possible. Showcasing this analysis early on highlights that he truly has encountered a similar problem before and therefore he is genuinely the right person to solve it.
If we in the insight industry want to be seen as true consultants and real problem solvers then could we do more to start feeding back our opinions early?
I believe the answer is yes.
For example if a client asks
“which of these social media routes will consumers respond better to?”
We should be able to instantly give our thoughts based on our experience of similar questions in the past and our observations based on the three key success factors. The best insight geeks don’t wait to give their opinions until after they have fully understood the consumer feedback/data analysis but give their thoughts from the start.
Step 3. Present potential solutions early
Businesses are presented with Lord Sugar’s recommended solutions fairly early on in the project lifecycle. Traditionally insight geeks would wait until the project is coming to a conclusion before they give their recommended solution, as they want to ensure that their recommendations are data driven. Presenting a range of solutions prior to collecting or analysing any data shows the client that you are familiar with the business problem that you been given and reinforces that you are the right person for the job.
Step 4. Identify barriers & focused analysis
Furthermore, presenting solutions to the businesses problem very early on allows Lord Sugar to understand what the barriers to implementation are.
Insight geeks can adopt a similar practice with their clients, so that they are able to understand what barriers to potential solutions could be. When communicating these potential solutions I think they will also find that their clients will also start to surface more of their hypotheses and ideas. This will prove invaluable when it comes to data analysis or survey design. It is key that insight professionals do this prior to any data collection or data analysis as it will ensure that the analysis of the data is more focused on the thing that really matter.
The Alan Sugar effect
Someone who clearly has the authority, charisma, reputation and a process that allows thought leaders to give them control of their business problem. For insight geeks to be seen as expert problem solvers and trusted consultants they need to take some key learning’s from Lord Sugar:
Identify & Analyse three key success factor
Feedback on the key success factors ASAP
Present your potential solutions early
Identify barriers & focused analysis
I truly believe that by focusing our analysis on three key critical success factors (early on), allows us to feedback our thoughts much earlier on in the project lifecycle. It also allows us to have opinions and feed through ideas almost before the data collection or analysis starts. In a world where getting data and insights to users quickly is key, I feel us insight geeks can do more to adopt this practice.
Can we be brave and show our expertise before all the data is in?
In fact can we be brave enough to do that before even starting the project?
I think we can and we should because we have probably baked the same cake and tasted the likely output many times before.