October 8, 2021

How to Cultivate a Culture of Insight

How does your ag brand stay in the loop with trends that could benefit your entire organization? How does your team keep its members engaged and collaborative on a multi-department level, in real-time? And more importantly, how are these two things related?

In mid-2019, our answer was to build a futurist team. This team was created to look outwards and develop a culture of all-in participation, one that regularly honed their skills of collecting, analysing and drawing insights from data. Led by our Intelligence department, the team created a framework for finding and sharing the most insightful, interesting, and relevant trends influencing both the industries we serve regularly and society as a whole. 

Using social listening tools and a custom-built dashboard, we engaged team members to look outside of their immediate social platforms and preferred news sites, to a wider pool of information curated from thought leaders and futurists. The team would discuss what industry leaders and trendsetters are exploring and draw insights from those trends.

From Futurist Predictions to a Culture of Insight

As with all things in our post-pandemic world, our futurist team evolved. We still bring together cross-departmental groups to discuss trends, innovations and share insights drawn from the information gathered. We also meet once a month for one team to share discipline-specific knowledge with the entire office. 

The most important factor in all of these varied forms of knowledge sharing is that it’s baked into the culture here. And it should be baked into your team as well. 

If your company has a smaller intelligence or insights department, the true no-brainer for keeping your team nimble and punching above its weight in innovative thinking is to cultivate a culture of insight. Even though everyone is working towards the same outcome, delivering the best product service for your customers, departments can tend to become siloed. Weekly meetings focused only on exercising insight muscles work towards stronger inter-departmental cohesion and a more robust knowledge of the client or customer’s issues.

How to Get Started

Insight needs to be informed, which means going beyond reading some headlines or consulting with the odd futurist. Indeed, the key to a more comprehensive analytical session involves an array of tools. The secret sauce for our team is:

  • Social listening software to follow over 100+ carefully selected thought leaders and innovators as well as their most relevant discussions.
  • Monitoring RSS feeds from pace-setting industry news sites.
  • Keen thinking and eager team members with an open-minded approach to collaboration.
  • A means of presenting all the data in a concise and easy to analyze medium.

For any team, the success of this process relies on the intuitiveness of two components. The data collection must be effective, and the data presentation must be effortless to read.

Step Towards Truly Mindful and Insightful Teams

Now let’s get to the good part. A team that can pull off effective and thoughtful insight development and sharing is entitled to two distinct levels of improvement in the work they do. Firstly, there are new, informative bridges connecting departments. It can be all too easy for people to end up wearing the horse blinders of their workflow and lose perspective on the efforts of other team members. 

Meetings like these can be a breath of fresh air in this regard, by allowing everyone – from the C-suite to the sales team to freely share thoughts and inform each other on what they think could have potential for the work your company does. The best part? There’s no mandate, and there’s no pressure. Throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Move fast and break stuff.

This leads to the second benefit, which takes place once the meeting is over. If the session was compelling, people will walk away with something. When you think of work only from a production perspective, it’s almost guaranteed you will miss this insight. At its best, these meetings are composed of information that is new, inventive, and imaginative.

Like reading an article or think piece, those who attend will retain that comprehension and perhaps implicitly or explicitly inform the work they do. It’s hard to quantify or expect to pay off in sequence, but this intuition might just improve your team’s potential to succeed in ways not seen on a spreadsheet.

Practice Makes Perfect

For us, the futurist scrums were the start of an evolution of the way we work. We began to more clearly define the importance of growing insight skills across our entire team. It changed the way we talk about the work, the way we draw insights from data, and the way we ideate from there. It also helped pave the way to a shift in what we call ourselves. 

Rather than being an agency, we are a marketing practice. We’re all constantly practicing our chosen disciplines, striving to continuously deepen our expertise and challenge our previous thinking. 

Futurist Thinking That’s Built-In

The futurist scrum, and the form our knowledge sharing now takes, can be defined as many things. Conducting due diligence and gaining intelligence on what the industry is facing – and what it might face next. An effort to capture forward-thinking lightning in a bottle. A chance to break away from your day and flex your creative muscle. Staying on top of the latest emerging trends and cutting-edge movements that have the potential to better the work.

Whatever it is, its merits are defined by the value its members assign to it. And in that sense, its success is not assured, or at times even measurable. But that’s not the point. Just like a futurist, the goal is to try new things and to question what is possible, which is truly how any team can push the envelope. 

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Reid Groeneveld and originally published in January 2020. It was updated in October 2021.