The Collaborative Journey to Insight

by Joelle Gwinner

The next time you are in the midst of creating something…”if you expect someone to be engaged no matter what you do, then I wish you luck.”   -Michael Tucker.

Little did my colleague know, his reflection on empathy is the perfect opening to my reflection on delivering insights with impact.

Does this situation sound familiar? You work hard to design a brand tracking study to help stakeholders make better decisions and to guide sure-to-win brand strategies. The program has all of the foundation pieces you know audiences will want:

Brand Funnel. Check.

Brand Health Framework. Check.

Attributes to diagnose. Check.

It’s all there. And so goes the data collection, processing and reporting. Flawless execution on a report that shows all the trends, data, and ways to prioritize opportunities for the brand. The report goes out.


Or how about this situation? You work hard to maintain your company’s tracker, and the feedback you hear is “The scores never change,” “Don’t we get this from that other tracker?,” or worse…”we have a tracker?!?”


But what if we heard a new sound? The sound of conversation, collaboration and – ultimately – collective understanding.

When we pause at key moments of a research program and create room for the voice of the stakeholders, we build a program with purpose, alignment, and momentum.

Facilitated Sessions is collaboration in action. These sessions are a powerful way to engage, excite and persuade during such key moments. They are not meetings. They are not presentations. They are not one person leading a discussion. Facilitated Sessions are diligently prepared workshops with goals, activities and outcomes that drive action. After all, the definition of facilitate is to “help forward” and “to assist the progress of an action, process, etc.” – most importantly, the origin means EASY. So, facilitated sessions make our job easier as it brings our team with us on the journey to insight.

I’ve found such sessions to be particularly powerful at three key moments:


Discovery or Blueprinting workshops help to define what could be from a number of viewpoints:

  • A 30,000 foot view: What does the industry look like 5 years from now? What do WE as a company look like 5 years from now?
  • A 15,000 foot view: What’s stopping you from where you want to go? What are your challenges? Irritations?
  • A 5,000 foot view: What do we need to know to make good decisions? What other sources of information do we have that answer what we need/want to know?
  • All the way down to a 500 foot view: What measures define our brand’s success?

Discovery workshops also present the perfect opportunity to get a critical indicator in to the mix: hypotheses: what do you expect consumers to tell you?

From these sessions, the program vision is defined by the very people who will use it. Buy-in at this early stage ensures faster buy-in of results at a later stage.


Is it possible that the narrative behind Toy Story happened in one day? Not likely. Is it possible one person wrote the whole story – beginning to end – alone? Also, not likely. Great stories take time, process, and (lots) of people.

Insights sessions are the most critical pause moment to get from WHATthe data is saying to SO WHAT does it mean for the organization. It’s an opportunity to take participants through the detail and allow the collaborative spirit of the group to draw out the details that matter most.

There are many ways to facilitate such a session. A framework that generates a lot of great discussion and one that I personally use is the GROW framework: Goals, Realities, Opportunities, Way Forward.

Regardless of framework, these sessions ultimately provide two of the three key ingredients to a great story: a narrative with a flow that builds and resolves tension, and a call to action – the what should the reader DO after reading? The last piece of a great research story – data visualization – is a quick step away from delivering a more compelling deliverable.


Activation sessions are fun, activity-based workshops that bring together the stakeholders once again to take So What to Now What. We have a compelling story, we see the call to action… now how do we make it happen?

Activities are created to build on one another and to draw out the creative ideas of the collective group. From group discussions, to break out sessions, to developing action plans, all with responsibilities, accountability, and timelines, these workshops put the exclamation point on a program well-built.

Here’s a framework that can be a great starting point for activation sessions:

Three sessions at three key moments. Does this feel like more work that will take more time (that you don’t have)? Maybe. I used to feel that way too. But then I realized something: Reworking presentations, spending time explaining what was done, and ultimately hearing that the results aren’t useful takes time too. And it doesn’t feel very good.

A path that takes moments to get the program, story and actions right the first time? I choose that path.

With my own reflection on delivering insights with impact, I come back to my colleague Michael. I can’t agree more: if you expect someone to be engaged no matter what you do, then I wish you luck.

Let’s do away with luck, and take advantage of moments to engage, excite and persuade.

Joelle loves to connect people, ideas, and processes to inspire what’s next. She is on constant lookout for “aha” moments that create a bridge for organizations between insights and actions.

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Source: Feature image – @PeopleImages –


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