‘Information is knowing who Cindy Crawford is, but knowledge is knowing Cindy Crawford’s phone number.’
Of course my take on this as a pimpled teen has evolved, and now serves as a pause for reflection as I think about data and the market research industry.
Has the difference between information and knowledge changed?
As times have changed and with progress speeding along our technological highways, the question still remains, albeit in a different form. In our quest to turn information into knowledge, search engines often seem to know what information we’re looking for before we’re even sure of that fact ourselves.
And the landscape becomes even more interesting when social media platforms like Facebook indirectly become a competitor to search engine giants, as some folks take back the reigns when it comes to finding information and gaining insight.
What is information?
Simply stated in terms of consumer research, information is the vast amount of data available. This information is often disparate, usually siloed, and most likely underutilized. In terms of research, information is the hundreds of cross-tabs that start to look blurry and take more energy to ‘tame’, rather than draw conclusions and generate insights.
What is knowledge?
Knowledge is the collection of information, followed by processing it into a useful and meaningful story. It’s the application of the information that turns data into insights for storytelling consumer research.
Knowledge is important, but just as important is the sharing of the acquired knowledge. Being able to disseminate these insights across functions of the organization allow for better decision-making overall; thereby increasing the value of the consumer research data.
Moving information (data) to knowledge (insights)
It’s true that you can’t attain knowledge without information. The process of going from data to insights can often be a challenge.
There are data insights maturity scales that talk about moving from simply being a collector of data, to being a collaborator that can provide insight. By doing so, better business decisions are made.
While some call for a return to basics, to close the gap between data and insights, I think these inputs can help facilitate the process:
- Smart database design saves time and effort
Understanding what – and how it’s ultimately reported - is vital information that can be used to design a database to help generate insights most effectively. Time savings is also of relevance when it comes to design.
A design that is neatly organized and contains thoughtful inputs (top-two boxes, summaries and calculations), can save users lots of time. This frees you up to focus on analysis, rather than messing around with Excel spread sheets.
- Data investigation tools bring understanding
The ability to explore and mine consumer research data provides a level of flexibility and creativity to really understand the data, and draw meaningful conclusions. Easy-to-use charting and features such as built-in significance testing, aid users to arrive at conclusions.
Leaner organizations and decreased marketing spend means people are having to do more, with fewer resources. Not everyone is an analytics software expert, or has the time to wait a week for their agency to get back to them with a simple recut of their data – available at a premium!
- Data visualization tools facilitate decision making
Consumer research data visualization tools that allow non-research people explore and interact with data, can help spread information and provide companies the opportunity to make decisions collaboratively.
These tools can allow for flexibility and a “tiered” access of engagement. The most innovative of these tools can even auto-generate monthly and quarterly reporting, freeing up time to actually make business decisions from the data.
While I certainly never attained the knowledge of Cindy Crawford’s phone number, I have gained the understanding that the value of consumer research data is only as good as the insights that it generates.
Top image : Google Images