What exactly is “an insight”? Something that’s bothered me since I started as a planner is how people throw that word around as if it were synonymous to “a conclusion” or even “a fact”. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide listing 10, 15, 20 “insights”. “Our insight is that 37% of the target group buys milk four times a week” – you know what I’m talking about.
Then, the other day, when I was putting together a presentation on what makes good advertising good I was finally forced to come up with a definition of “insight”. What I ended up writing was that an insight is an informed revelation. It’s not something that is a mere conclusion as a result of purely linear thinking but rather something that is based on fact but then makes a leap of faith. Call it lateral thinking. Call it connecting the dots. Call it an aha-moment. But you know that you have an insight when people around you go “yeah, that’s it! I’ve never actually thought of it that way but now that I do, I realize that’s exactly how it is”. I was pretty happy about it.
But now I’ve been trumped. Then again, the one doing the trumping is Plato, so I’ll try to take it as a man.
What happened was that I was listening to an audiobook today and learned that Plato, talking about insight (he was really talking about intuition but since intuition translates into “to see”, it seems related to insight) in relation to his theory of forms and shadows, said that to have an insight is to get a glimpse of the forms, i.e. of the true being of things. He defined it as “touching eternity”.
Not a bad way to spend your work day.