Deep insights to challenge core belief

Gary Klein

Big Data, and the outside view, can provide certain kinds of discoveries; the inside view can lead to other types of insights. It is not a question of one versus the other. Strategists should be using both.

How do housewives on a tight budget shop for detergents? it seems obvious: they buy the least expensive brand. Procter & Gamble, with its line-up of expensive, high-quality products, had been ignoring these 'economical' housewives, but in the early 1990s, P&G wanted to roll out a new laundry product that could compete on price without too great a reduction of quality. And so P&G spent years gathering data from surveys and focus groups to better understand the buying habits of these low-budget shoppers, and the bottom line was that they basically made cost their priority.

But one P&G executive wasn't so sure. He knew that the product development team was satisfied with its research efforts and was eager to move the project along, so he didn't want to delay too much. He asked them to wait for one more month, and called my colleagues and me in to do a cognitive analysis of how these economical housewives made their decisions. The executive had worked with us on a previous project and believed our methods could be useful here as well. He wanted an inside view – inside the thought processes of the housewives – to complement the outside view of their buying patterns and the opinions they expressed.