If you’ve attended any of our Quirk’s events in recent years, either virtual or in-person, or consumed any of our content, you’re probably familiar with the work of James Wycherley and the U.K.-based Insight Management Academy (IMA). 

We’ve been happy to partner with Wycherley and the IMA as we share their goal of elevating the corporate insights function. The articles he has written and Quirk’s Event sessions in which he interviews client-side insights leaders are always popular. (I recapped two such chats in a recent issue of our e-newsletter, Listening in to conversations with interesting research.)

Following a decade in insights at Barclays Bank, Wycherley became the IMA’s chief executive in 2015 and took up the organization’s mission of helping client-side researchers gather together to learn, benchmark and strategize ways to improve their organizations’ research functions. As a natural extension of the work he and the IMA have been doing, Wycherley has written a book, Transforming Insight, in which he compiles the “42 secrets” of successful corporate insight teams.

The book is organized in five sections – identifying value; driving change; leading insight; optimizing impact; and moving forward – consisting of concise but substantive chapters. Some topics – like how to develop a plan for the future of the research function within your organization or how to write your function’s mission statement – could warrant many more pages than they are given here but Wycherley does a great job of giving anyone contemplating such major undertakings a solid foundation of questions to ponder at the outset and guideposts to use along the way.

It’s an admirably realistic and aware book that shows an understanding of the current, sometimes messy realities of the modern insights function while also striving for attainable future efficiencies rather than the only-in-a-perfect-world goals that many business books urge readers to pursue. He acknowledges that researchers have accomplished a lot in terms of raising the discipline’s status and profile and that now is a great time to be in the industry but there is also more that can be done.

Client-side readers will no doubt find themselves nodding in agreement throughout, as the book is clearly based on and drawn from the work experiences of IMA members, who have gathered together in regular forums since IMA’s founding in 2004. 

A primary target of the book is, of course, the leaders of the insights departments or functions and in addition to the coverage of the many aspects of being a researcher in general there is also much of interest to those who want to think about their roles as managers of groups of people and stewards of internal information-gathering. 

In later chapters he makes a case for optimizing the impact of the research function by understanding its role in how the organization makes money:

“Working in an Insight team it can often be tempting to think that the commercial aspects of a business are somebody else’s concern. We construct a view of the world which separates the commercial from the customer. This means that the idea of researchers and analysts being commercial feels akin to putting on somebody else’s uniform or accepting a different mind-set. Not only do we think of rational reasons for rejecting the idea, some of us might feel an emotional reaction, maybe even recoil from the suggestion that we have to accept another department’s motives and values. But an organization cannot be considered commercial, let alone achieve sustainable commercial success, without understanding the customer, its own operations and the financial transactions between a customer and supplier. And so the learning developed by an Insight team is just as integral to the whole concept of commerciality as the spreadsheets kept by finance or the operational processes developed by product, sourcing, marketing and sales teams.”

That type of clear-eyed viewpoint is characteristic of the grounded, informative approach throughout that I think makes Transforming Insight a worthwhile read for corporate researchers. 

Transforming Insight (£17.99), by James Wycherley, is available from Transforming-Insight.com.