What Makes Insights Actionable?

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Data collection, on any level, has become a fairly easy task to do. With so many resources available on the Internet, do one simple Google search and you can get answers to your questions in two seconds. However, easy data does not necessarily mean meaningful data. To create actionable insights, you have to assign meaning to the collected data.

In market research, collecting data is a significant, preliminary task. However, simply collecting it isn’t enough. To stand out from the competition and ensure a job well done for clients, finding valuable takeaways is critical. To do this, you need to dive deep into the data and construct insights.

An insight is defined as “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Making an insight actionable means indexing future activities that should be taken. Actionable insights put data into motion.

There are four tiers in an actionable insights pyramid. According to Forbes, here’s how each tier is constructed:


Data combines raw, unrefined facts that come in the form of numbers or text. It can be quantitative, which is measured data; or, qualitative, which is observed data.


Information is data that has been processed and given context. Often it’s displayed in graphs or charts.


Insights are created when you analyze information and draw a conclusion about it.

Actionable Insights

These are insights that cause action to happen rather than just simply answer a question. Actionable insights make you rethink the situation and push you forward to find a new solution.

While most insights are helpful, not all are actionable. Insights are simply realizations. Let’s look at Snapchat as an example.

The amount of Snapchats someone sends in a day is raw numerical data. We then could turn that number into a bar graph and compare the amount of Snapchats sent the day before and the day after—putting the data into context. When analyzing these numbers, you can see whom you’ve Snapchatted and the amount of days in a row you’ve mutually Snapchatted each other, otherwise known as a “Snapchat Streak.” To some people, losing a streak is unacceptable. So, if they hadn’t Snapchatted someone on the receiving end of their streak for that day, they would be compelled to send a Snapchat to maintain the streak.

Thus, a realization that drives you (or an organization’s decision makers) to do something is an actionable insight. Actionable insights have common qualities, too, including:

  1. Relevance: The insight must be relevant to the goal of the decision maker. We make thousands of insights daily, but only those that drive us to complete a certain agenda are what lead us to action.
  2. Specificity: The insight must be specific. Think about the endless number of advertisements we are exposed to every day. Some are vague; others offer empty promises. Only those ads that specifically offer instructions on how to do something, benefitting you and your interests, will motivate you to act.
  3. Value: Most importantly, the insight must have value. Something could be relevant and specific to a decision maker, but if there is no meaning behind the insight as to why someone should act upon it, then its importance is lost.

When it comes to building actionable insights, it is essential to push past simple analysis and create “the why.” This is the part of the market research formula that aids decision makers to take action and move forward.

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