Michael Lancor, P&G: Be Curious, Empathize, Expand Your Creativity


Michael Lancor has been at Procter and Gamble since 1992. He held several positions across P&G businesses before working his way to his current role as the Director of Consumer Fundamentals and Insights. Michael is well-known in the Insights industry as someone who implements change, as he has successfully done at P&G for years. He graduated from Indiana University Bloomington studying Economics, Marketing and Business Management. Michael is a client of ours and uses Sharpr for insight delivery and communication.

Each research and insight professional has a method for pushing the insights they have found to those who can act on them, and Michael is no exception. He has trained his team at Procter and Gamble to think expansively, create unique insight and then deliver it to decision-makers. (See section titled “Build a Toolkit.”) I called him up to learn a bit more about that method.

Turn Insights Into Action

Michael Lancor believes that turning insights into action is one of the most important parts of his job. He also acknowledges, however, that it is one of the more difficult tasks he’s faced with as well. “Trying to engage people who can take action on insights is one of the main constant challenges in the insights industry today.” I couldn’t agree with that more, so I asked how he had been able to get inside the decision-makers brains. In response, he shared the following insights.

Provide a Transformational Experience

“One of the things that works most effectively, but is the hardest to do, is to provide a chance for somebody to experience it for themselves,” Michael shared. “That tends to be much more transformational than simply delivering them all of the data.”

To illustrate this, Michael shared an experience he had while working at Olay. He had collected a series of data, and shared it with the General Manager, but it never compelled him to act. “It wasn’t until the GM was able to have an experience where he felt the emotion behind it from somebody, that he was willing, or ready, to take action.”

This experience came when Michael and the GM were sitting in an interview with a consumer. She expressed how Olay used to be one of her favorite brands, but now when she went to pick out a product, she became overwhelmed with the options available, and had opted out of purchasing items completely. When the GM heard that, he said he finally understood the information Michael had been giving him for months.

Michael emphasizes that insight and research professionals must facilitate these experiences for decision makers. “That’s just one example, but it’s illustrative of what has always been, and continues to be, a big challenge,” Michael said. “It’s difficult for decision makers to engage in things like that, where they are able to hear or experience it first hand, which allows them to have the desire or the empathy to really go do something about it.”

Cultivate Game-Changing Insight

Michael’s next advice pertains to the curation of data. He do­esn’t believe there is any single “best practice” for insight creation, no magic bullet, but he does believe that integrated thinking is key. “You must look at the information from multiple perspectives in order to achieve a more robust outcome.”

“Because there’s no individual technique, it’s very often how you bring things together.” Michael explains that when professionals are cultivating their data, the best way to make it game-changing is to work in iterations; start with a basic principle and look at it from every way possible, work it and rework it until it has evolved into something fresh.

Build a Toolkit

The iteration process requires a person to think expansively. Michael believes that they must change their mindset entirely and develop a toolkit that allows them to think differently than they’re used to. “They should fill their toolkit with 3 important tools…

First, you have to be curious, or interested in what you’re trying to solve for.

Secondly, there must be an element of empathy, as we discussed earlier, some type of practical experience.

And the 3rd thing, which tends to get lost by researchers who love data, is creativity. Almost every great insight has this unexpected way that people have brought the idea together to make it simple and brilliant, but it does take a bit of creativity to do that type of thinking to get to something that’s really compelling to people.”

Michael has found that these three mindsets make for well-rounded, game-changing insights that cause decision-makers to act.

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