Our clients are certainly experts in their industries and have knowledge that should be considered important for assessing their current state, but how do we avoid too much ‘belly button gazing” and ensure the current state assessment includes data from the market and potential markets?
Here are a few guidelines we use for balancing “wisdom of the crowd” with objective data when embarking on your planning process.
Wisdom of the Crowd
While easy to generate a whiteboard full of ‘things we just know,’ or things we know about our own business, this wisdom can be validated so your plan isn’t informed by too many subjective opinions that are unproven theories (not awesome) or may not be correct (worst case). So how can you validate the wisdom of the crowd? We suggest using these two methods:
- Wisdom of a larger crowd: The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority executive team is certainly a team of experts, and they have extensive data both about their own organization’s performance and industry standards or market data. But to validate some of their wisdom about the current state and the Authority’s opportunities, their planning process included conducting working groups with outside community leaders who had a stake in the aviation business or airport directly. We’d call this, “Wisdom of a larger crowd.”
- Wisdom of the audience: In addition to conducting online surveys of its citizens, Douglas County wanted to validate some of the brainstorming they’d done around citizens’ priorities. After the gathering wisdom of the crowd of county commissioners, staff directors and elected officials, we conducted a citizen roundtable to get reactions to these priorities and let Douglas County’s stakeholders suggest additional priorities. We’d call this ‘focus-group style validation, “Wisdom of the audience.”
This can be harder to obtain than wisdom of the crowd—or at least, it can be more expensive and take more time; and the more precise the data, the more expensive and difficult it will be to obtain. But notice we said difficult, not impossible. The value of any objective data, especially market data, can determine whether your plan identifies the correct opportunities and their true potential. But your method doesn’t have to break the bank. Which brings us to out last tactic:
- Using objective data: Brycon, a large construction firm in the Southwest, had lots of ideas about markets where they could expand, but choosing the markets with most potential was important because they couldn’t afford to expand to all of them. To quantify and prioritize the markets and to objectively pick the best markets for growth, Brycon used off-the-shelf research from IBISWorld and data gathered from economic development authorities to determine where in the U.S. to expand. Some of the markets confirmed their wisdom and a few were complete, but fruitful, surprises.
But here’s the trick with objective data: since getting this data will take time and money, there should be a commitment to using the data. If an organization’s leadership or planning team don’t like the research results, or the results contradict their wisdom, are they willing to adhere to the objective data, even if it means their wisdom was not right? This is probably a question worth asking leadership before the investment in research is made.
While wisdom of the crowd is always a legitimate place to start your current state assessment, it likely doesn’t represent enough information about the markets (both current and potential) to inform your real opportunities for growth. We see it all the time: clients willing to invest in objective market data see it positively impact the quality of the planning and projected results.