Craig Elston, Integer: Diagnosing Issues and Proposing Solutions

Craig Elston is the Executive Vice President and Global Head of Insight and Strategy for the Integer Group. He has held various strategy positions across Integer, where he has worked since he moved to the US in 2006. Previously, he worked for TEQUILA\ in London as the Director of Customer Insight, and before that he held several positions in market research. He studied Business and Finance in his undergraduate career, then received his Masters in Marketing at Kingston University. He is also a graduate of the Omnicom Senior Management Program.

Craig Elston has the type of grit it takes to make a difference in the industry, so I got in touch with him to determine how his hard work has shown results in his position at Integer. Craig shared with me his own insight into the Insight Industry. First, he redefined some terminology that helped to shape our conversation.

“Most People Use the Term Insight Incorrectly”

What most people refer to as an insight, they actually mean a data point. It’s easy to find data points. Craig chooses to define insights as previously hidden truths.

“And that can come from the amalgamation of different sources and requires some strategic intuition to be able to uncover it. For us, it’s a creative process. It is about trying to find something which is there but hasn’t had a spotlight shined on it. It’s about connecting things in new ways to reveal something that was previously hidden about a brand, about consumers, or about a culture.”

Creativity is Key

The biggest difference between a data point and an insight are the connections that are made, and the action items that become available because of them. I asked Craig what types of characteristics are involved in an insight team that could successfully make those connections.

“I refer to them as informed generalists. They have a creative streak in their mind, they’re able to see things in a new and interesting way. They tend to have a variety of different backgrounds.”

Their creativity and diverse backgrounds, Craig says, make them more interesting and persuasive storytellers when it’s time to present to decision makers.

It Takes Two: Qualitative and Quantitative

To explain the type of creative process involved in uncovering true insight, Craig stresses the importance of Qualitative and Quantitative research. Quantitative, referring more to the specific statistical data collection, and qualitative being the source of understanding action and motivation. In essence, the why behind the what.

“The conventional approach is to do some qualitative work as a form of discovery,” Craig said. “Then you can quantify the things that you discover.”

He explains that because organizations are, ultimately, in the business of making money, it helps decision-makers when you can back-up your insights with both a qualitative understanding by talking to the target audience, and then by quantifying those observations to prove the widespread effect on them. And, frankly, sometimes the insights you uncover aren’t shocking. In fact, in the words of Craig, “a good insight is obvious in retrospect.”

Diagnose the Problems, Deliver a Cure

A truly successful insight team can do more than just provide great insight, they can provide insight that is personally relevant to the organization with which they’re working. Craig believes the best way to get people to act on insight, is to deliver it well.

“It takes time to know an organization and how they operate,” Craig explains. “You really have to fully diagnose the problems they’re trying to solve for, and by understanding that, and the context in which it’s happening, you’re able to lay a trail of breadcrumbs.”

He explains that some of your pitches to people in organizations will be more logic-based, some might cater more to emotional appeal, but it’s just as important to get to know an organization as it is to equip them with great insight.

“Tell them a story, take them on a journey and make them feel comfortable that you have done enough of your homework.”

There’s No Substitute for Hard Work

This was another inspiring theme throughout my conversation with Craig. He believes in the power of hard work. He believes that if you do the groundwork and the research and put together an actionable presentation, you will have success. He also gave some advice to newcomers in the industry. He recommends that they be eager.

“Always raise your hand for everything. Get as much experience as you can. You add value when you’ve worked across many different business categories, products, audience types. Experience and variety are really important, so, again: raise your hand, be available, make yourself useful.”

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