Universally Challenged

April 18th, 2013

Insight. It’s one of the most important words in the advertising world. Research is supposed to guarantee it and, in the hands of the experienced planner, it’s presumed to lead to propositions so potent, they cannot help but steer communications to greatness. But what does it actually mean?

The term has been refined and redefined for decades, but seemingly no clear-cut agreement can ever be reached. This leaves open the conclusion that very few have actually been insightful in defining the term insight – in turn making their insights less insightful.

Of all things, I think that University Challenge (for all the wrong reasons) may be able to provide the answer.

University Challenge, a primetime BBC Two quiz programme, devotes half an hour of our air-time to glorify the accumulation of knowledge. It is a show which praises upon high the combination of four individuals who have consumed, and can regurgitate, the most amount of information in 30 minutes. This is particularly interesting, because those deemed to be at the pinnacle of intellectual prowess, and those who marvel in their wonder, seem to have missed the point. Not just of the show, but of life in general.

By attaining more information, you should then be more able to understand the things that you do and the world in which you live. Based on this enhanced understanding, you are then (in theory) more likely to be able to dictate, control and influence the world in which you live, because of the wisdom you possess. Wisdom is the ultimate goal, not knowledge.

In an attempt to define insight; it is achieved when you have consumed such a varied amount of information that you too come to fully understand a particular subject. This wisdom enables you to offer unique perspectives on that subject, which can alter how other people perceive it. And as we all know, “to hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive” (David Hume), insight then enables us to dictate, control and influence the world in which we live, because we’re able to alter how people perceive it.

An insight, often formed by those with insight, is therefore the single piece of information which turns knowledge into wisdom. Ironically, this conclusion can be drawn most from the people who have managed to grasp it the least. I hope this insight into insight has been insightful.


Alex Dobson is a market research account handler at Hall & Partners. He’s passionate about strategic thinking and is a keen challenger of conventional wisdoms in advertising. For more from Alex, follow him on twitter.


Photo Credit: Retro Dundee / University Challenge


  1. This chap has nailed it. Absolutely cracking article. I predict great things for Dobson

  2. The gap between to know and to understand. One require only the ability to find and to remember; The second one get the ability to think with empathy.

  3. If this blog heralded a drinking game based around the word Insight, we’d all be smashed.

Leave a comment: