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Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of a subject. It is this deep understanding that leads to intuition, the abilty to understand immediately without reasoning.

""Insight is not a light bulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out."" (Gladwell, 2005)

Strategy development implication --
Insight and intuition are where the initial seeds of creative strategy come from.

Questions to ask to build insights (Hamel, 2000, pp 117 - 135)

  • Where and in what ways is change creating the potential for new rules and new space?
  • What is the potential for revolution inherent in the things that are changing right now, or have already changed?
  • What are the discontinuities we could exploit?
  • What aspect of what's changing can we come to understand better than anyone else in the industry?
  • What's the deep dynamic that will make our new business concept oh-so-relevant right now?
  • Get addicted to looking for change. Keep asking yourself, what's changing? What's the opportunity this presents?
  • If necessary, bring in an industry outsider who comes from a different context -- one that allows them to see new possibilities.
  • Search data for previously unrecognized patterns. This is an art that requires conceptual ability. Keep a list of things that strike you as new or different. Everyone once in a while, scan that list and search for broad themes.
  • The world is a system. Something changes here, and it will affect something over there.
  • Sometimes creating proprietary foresight is just a matter of slogging through more data.
  • Know what isn't changing or what's not going to change. People's basic nature does not change. What changes is how we address our wants and needs. Change gives us better tools. Opportunities come when we can imagine how to use our new tools to address our deepest desires.
  • You can't understand a discontinuity merely by reading about it, you can understand that only by living it. To be fully grounded in what is changing, you must move from the analytical to the experiential.
  • People don't embrace an opportunity because they see it, they embrace it because they feel it. And to feel it, they have to experience it.
  • Develop a routine, which will help you to bring about new ways of seeing the world, seeing new opportunities, and seeing new problems to solve. For example, how often you pick up a magazine you've never read before? How often do you go to an industry convention for an industry, you know little about? How often you hang out with people who are very different from you? How do you know, if you're on the edge or in the hinterlands? You have any friends in venture capital who can tell you what's happening out on the fringe? Do you know, what kind of startups are calling on the VP for business development in your company? Have you been tracking all the IPOs your broad competitive domain?
  • Insights come out of new conversations. All too often, strategy conversations in large companies have the same 10 people talking to the same 10 people for a fifth year in a row. They can finish each other's sentences. You're not meant to learn anything new in this setting. Travel is still the fastest way to start a bunch of new conversations. It has the added benefit of turning the background into the foreground. Travel makes you a stranger. It put to it odds. It robs you of your prejudices.
  • Long-term thinking is not the challenge. It is unconventional thinking, which is the challenge. Therefore, the challenge is not the present versus the future; it is the conventional versus the unconventional.

Pattern recognition --
Seeing the relevant trends and seeing patterns changing and new patterns being established are all essential to developing an understanding of the environment in which the business operates. These trends and patterns reveal current dangers and opportunities. The more practiced management becomes at reading patterns and understanding trends relevant to their business, markets, industry, and business in general, the greater their understanding will be of the world they live in. The deeper their understanding of the relevant trends and patterns, the stronger their insights and intuitions will become.

See Slywotsky's 'profit patterns' and 'profit models'.