The skills customer insight professionals could be sharing with the higher education sector

In this blog I am following up on the LinkedIn post from last week where I entreated fellow insight professionals to make contact with their local university or college to discuss opportunities to make a contribution to courses and programmes. I made the point that the skills we possess as insight professionals are those that many universities are trying to encourage and develop in their students. I promised to outline the key skills insight professionals could share with local universities or colleges.

Here are seven key skills that I believe would benefit undergraduates, postgraduate students and those on lifelong learning programmes.

Critical thinking

As might be expected universities value cultivating clear deep thinking skills in their students. As insight professionals we are expert in problem definition, identifying the true causes behind a presented problem – not just working on the symptoms. We are good at unravelling complexity and we are experts at problem cleaning and refinement. So, we could bring a lot to the party in showcasing our skills as problem solvers.

Making sense of evidence – being a Sensemaker

We are skilled at being the wide angle lens of organisations, having an acute sense of what fits with what, what springs from what and what leads to what. This ability to work with today’s multiple sources of often imperfect evidence and apply holistic analysis skills is invaluable. We can share our ability to join up the dots in the evidence and construct a big picture view of what is happening. We are in the business of identifying strategic foresights and helping to futureproof organisations. Sharing this expertise with the university sector would be welcomed.

Understanding what makes people tick – why they think and behave in the way they do

As insight detectives with curiosity in our DNA we have the forensic energy needed to unearth what is happening in the world and ask those powerful why questions. In many ways this is the raison d’etre for our profession. Insight professionals would be a great resource for universities who want to develop these skills in their students.

Making the creative leap to innovative business solutions

As experts in understanding human behaviour we are able to support businesses in making more informed decisions. This requires blending the evidence with our experience and creativity when fashioning business solutions. We know that creativity is a very disciplined business. Sharing how we combine the hard evidence with our creativity in solving problems will be of great benefit to students.

Being productive, efficient and getting things done

As a profession we are in the business of completing projects. We are into agile experimentation. We know about turning knowledge into action. We have learnt the importance of taking personal responsibility for achieving successful outcomes. We recognise the importance of teamwork and working collaboratively – it is not about being a Superhero.

Being influential and persuasive business storytellers – informing decision-making

Over the years we have become much stronger being able to communicate our findings in an impactful way – applying the power of storytelling. We know how to win the emotional and intellectual argument. Remember that we are admissible evidence in the business of cultivating informed intuition. Again, a great skill to share with the university sector.

Demonstrating authenticity, genuineness and integrity

As an industry we are at the forefront of operating with total integrity in respecting individuals and their personal data and in the way we undertake projects in a professional manner within acknowledged codes of conduct. Again, sharing these business values will be of benefit to students.  

In my view the high performance customer insight professional mindset pivots around focus, clarity, creativity, influence, tenacity, action and courage. Surely students would benefit from acquiring these traits.

These are my initial thoughts.  I am sure colleagues will want to add further skillsets and may wish to debate what I have outlined here. But this is a start point, hopefully providing food for thought as to topics on which you might want to offer a university or college session.

Further ideas on skill areas you might want to share with the higher education sector can be found in my book The High Performance Customer Insight Professional. This is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as other Amazon sites around the world.

For colleagues who are thinking about preparing a session a for a college or university, just get in touch by email with your ideas. I would be delighted to support you and also send you a complimentary copy of the book in the post.

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