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March 16, 2022 // Lindsay Moran // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

The Nature of Insights

I recently moved to Oregon and fully embraced camping due to the abundance of outdoor activities the state has to offer. For those who don’t know about the outdoor scene in Oregon, almost everyone evacuates the city each weekend to bask in the fresh air, beautiful views and solitude that the thousands of miles of accessible public land. Most weekends spring through fall, we head out on Friday in search of the perfect spot – one with a view, near water or with enough space for our friends to join as people close their laptops and face the weekend. 

As a newbie to Oregon, it took me some time to adjust to the process of finding that perfect spot. Sometimes, we spend hours on back roads in dead zones with our walkie talkies, a caravan of three camping-equipped vehicles combing through unpaved wilderness roads that lead to unknown places – all for what we refer to as “the spot.”

This weekly ritual is not all that different from my job, most of which includes mining for insights as a strategist. In brand strategy, we look to develop, discover and connect various avenues of research to identify and execute unique solutions to client problems. While my problem most weekends on the road is finding “the spot,” it requires a similar skillset to what is applied in each insight-driven client engagement. Both situations bring a fresh challenge and require a thorough understanding of the business (that of outdoor recreation or healthcare, for example), laser focus and creativity. Now that I have more experience in both camping and insights, I’ve picked up on some themes that apply to both.

Patience is the first theme that emerges from this unique intersection. At the start of my camping journey, I would often be frustrated by the time spent looking for this seemingly imaginary “spot.” I didn’t understand the payoff would be worth it. I was anxious to relax into the weekend, get settled at our site, hike around and kick up my feet. Similarly with insights, the massive amount of research that had to be first synthesized then analyzed was daunting. And with deadlines hanging over my head, I wanted to cross the work off my list – and fast. In retrospect, I clearly missed the patience to trust the process. And although time-consuming, the payoff was often worth it. Some of my most amazing memories camping come from when we took the time to find a spot that was the perfect fit for our expectations that weekend. In time, we happened across breathtaking views on what felt like untouched land. My best work as a strategist has also come after a period of dedication to the process and patient discernment about what the information in front of me meant. I know now that true creativity and breakthrough insights take time. Leaning into this knowledge has strengthened my work and fine-tuned my expectations.

Learning to have patience has also taught me to have fun with the process. Exploration is why I love the outdoors, and it is also what I find so appealing in my job as a strategist. I get paid to be curious. As I work through research and start to create themes that tell a story, sometimes these themes stop making sense as more information is revealed. Applying my patience, I take a step back to explore new ideas, change lanes and open my mind to possibilities outside of what I had felt so sure of before. I apply that same logic when I find myself at the mercy of client documents and team-produced research to bridge gaps between information and insight. Because of constraints like deadlines, project pivots or limited resources, I explore within the materials I am provided while weaving in my life experiences and intuition. In both the solitude of the outdoors and in the flow of my work, my instincts are a reliable way to pave the way forward, determining my next step or conclusion based on what is available.

Trusting my intuition has heightened my ability to also listen and discover. In the midst of developing insights and throughout my search in the quiet of nature, the final destination is unclear but there is a singular focus on “the end.” That ending could be “the spot” of my dreams or an insight that will shift how our client sees their business. Regardless, it takes discipline to set aside what I might think I know about an area or business and listen to the queues of where the information on hand is taking me. While there is no exact science to the process of either activity, listening and discovery suggests a more spiritual approach to trusting in the direction I’m headed, which allows my curiosity to take me off the beaten path. Ultimately, it requires eliminating the noise and making space for curiosity in contemplation.

It is only after I have patience, embrace exploration and discover through listening that I can piece together the parts of my process to make a whole. This is where I settle into the space I handpicked for the weekend, where insight becomes like electricity connecting the energy from information to the truth in a business, creating light at last. 

As easy as it is to chase perfection, this process has helped me get comfortable with the limitless possibilities and combinations and still keep faith that I chose the best path forward. All this to say, when searching hard for something special, I’ve found it often lies in the balance struck between digging in and letting go.

Lindsay Moran joined Allison+Partners with 3 years of digital marketing consulting in the paid social, programmatic, brand and business strategy areas. Prior to joining Allison+Partners, Lindsay worked at Bain & Company. While at Bain, she gained experience consulting for Fortune 100 clients on business strategy, revenue uplift models and private equity valuations analysis of digital media properties. Lindsay earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing Management at the University of St. Thomas.

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