What can we learn from the financial crisis?

“You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”  – Warren Buffet

London continues to be a great world city, leading others in terms of both it’s cultural vibrancy and as a linchpin of the world’s financial services.  Both of these are reflected in current theatre listings and I was fortunate to catch both “The Power of Yes” by David Hare and “Enron” by Lucy Prebble.  Both plays offered fascinating insights into the financial crisis, which also resonate in research and innovation,.

“The Power of Yes” offered a profound analysis of the causes of the crisis.  David Hare’s play illuminates how the majority of those involved lacked a truly holistic picture of the economy, and the implications of their many individual actions, and remained intractably focused on blindly following the person next to them for fear of missing out (with a few notable exceptions).  The clear lesson is that everything was and is inter-connected, and that without a more complete picture of the relationships between individual pieces of the picture, small actions can lead to catastrophic consequences to the system, even when they make sense on their own.

A friend of mine recently used an analogy of a house to describe research and the process of identifying insights.  By looking in one window, you may be able to see part of the house’s contents (providing that you use a bright enough torch), but at best you will know about one of the rooms (or part of one of the rooms).  This is unlikely to be enough information to be able to guess the occupier(s) of the house, and what motivates them.  You can only really understand them when you have seen in several windows and have a more complete picture. By the way if you have a broken window and sharp pieces of broken glass on the floor, contacting a window glass repair company is needed for they are the experts in that matter.

Insights are surprising (or disruptive) discoveries about real consumer truths, which have the ability to drive businesses and unlock growth.  They are typically fragmented or hidden, often come from ordinary observations and findings which can be put into context by connecting the observation to multiple data points gained from different pieces of research which help us to see something from different points of view (including qualitative, quantitative and desk research).

To identify truly disruptive insights we need to look in many rooms!


The Power of Yes by David Hare (2009)

Enron by Lucy Prebble (2009)

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