Problem solving and having insightful questions


When was the last time you heard a really insightful question?

(And no, I don’t believe ^^^ is one).

Since planning’s inception, we’ve been challenging ourselves to come up with the most insightful answer.

The one, magical insight that will crack the problem and its solution wide open.

And that word, insight, has followed us around and prompted debates annually on what its true definition is, as the technology has changed around us and the tools have only expanded.

Is it an observation with a leap on top?

Is it a piece of data that feels incontrovertible and new?

Is it just something you make up? (*crosses fingers*)

Or is it somewhere in the middle?

“Guys stick to a code of conduct when they’re hanging out together and don’t want to risk falling out of the pack.”

“Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

“Sainsbury’s needs every shopper to spend £1.14 more per shop.”

All of these are sharp insights that marry observation, data, and instinct into a springboard that you can’t help but want to dive off of.

But with cracking those insights comes pressure.

What if I don’t know where to start?

What if I can’t find something truly new and different?

What if I can’t express it in such a simple and succinct fashion?

And what if I haven’t identified the right problem in the first place?

That last question, in truth, is the first question - if we don’t have the correct diagnosis for the problem, we’re making it that much harder to identify the solution.

As my favourite rude American (though really English) doctor says - “Better a murder than a misdiagnosis.”

Diagnosing the problem starts not with having all of the answers and triangulating them.

It starts with having some insightful questions, and then getting out there to ask them.

Questions about the consumer: “How do young guys relate to each other?” Go ask them. Listen to a podcast about modern masculinity. Watch The Hangover films (if you dare).

Or about the brand: “Why does Barbie exist?” Go digging in the archives. Read a mum blog about Barbie shame. Attend a feminist rally.

Or about the category: “How are people grocery shopping currently?” Go follow them around your local Sainsbury’s. Ask your mum. Ask your mum’s friends. Look at your own shopping receipts over a few weeks.

To know what your problem is, you can’t answer these questions alone at your desk.

Sure, you can Google the sh*t out of it and probably get somewhere in the vicinity.

But to truly do this job, you need to get out there and see what’s happening. You need to talk to each other and source unique points of view. You need to go for a walk. You need to let the problem and the pressure go, and let the solution rise up in front of you.

And as Ellen says - “if someone ever says you’re weird

Say thank you.”

So get out there and be weird. Ask questions. Uncover these human details, come back to your business problem and frame it in a truly human context. Because that’s our role - to take the complex and make it simpler.

It’s posing a question that the client sits up and listens to, because you’ve reflected the what’s keeping them up at night.

And one that the creative team can see and feel - so they know what the dragon in the castle looks like, and what weapon they’re going to need to slay it.

Q: “What if the person you are when you’re hungry isn’t the person you are when you’re not?” A: You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.

Q: “What if we cared more about what Barbie enables for little girls, instead of what she looks like?” A: Imagine the Possibilities

Q: “What if every Sainsbury’s shopper put a new item in their basket?” A: Try Something New Today

Answering these questions has a multitude of avenues and there’s no one correct path if you are learning and curious along the way.

In truth, it’s the best part of the gig. The part where you get to make up where the story might take you - to get out there and explore and play in the big sandbox unfettered.

It’s why they call it creative strategy.

As ̶m̶y̶ ̶p̶e̶r̶s̶o̶n̶a̶l̶ ̶l̶i̶f̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶a̶c̶h̶ celebrated author and screenwriter Neil Gaiman said, “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”

So don’t worry about finding the answer.

Start with first asking the question.

Why not?

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