There was buzz and bounce and a sense of renewed energy in the rooms at Insight Alchemy 2023, and the contributions brought together a wide range of provocations, experience and opinion to match the theme.

'Insight alchemy' is what happens when you bring curious minds together with a sometimes apparently incompatible set of ingredients, and experiment in the right environment. It has a magic ingredient - the power of why?

Insight alchemy is key to the delivery of long term  competitive strategies, being central to creation of Intelligence Capital. The MRS think tank , the Delphi Group reported on this extensively in their report The Rise of the Insight Alchemist.

As the opening discussion panel at the conference declared:

Growth starts here

So what did I learn at Insight Alchemy 2023?

Our curious minds, our talent, needs to be more diverse and encouraged to speak out. In this world of 'crisis  as usual' consumers may be resilient, but we need to cope with constant change and learn that a nuanced approach is key. Even big pressures such as the cost of living crisis will not have impacts that are easy to categorise or predict, as Claer Barrett of the Financial Times said in her opening remarks.   

We need to have the confidence to face outwards as a sector and resist the urge to focus on internal issues. At the same time, we must collaborate to make use of the tools that we have, and make the most of new opportunities. In particular, we need to collaborate to meet the big challenges facing us, particularly our diversity and our response to the climate crisis .

The sector has so many new opportunities, and the list of ingredients that we can put into the alchemical mix is growing. But there were clear messages about the most seductive of ingredients – large and growing data sources. Speakers reminded us time and time again not to get lost in the volume, but to focus on value. Combining methodologies was important and human input was vital, in this era of developing AI.

We were also reminded that just because a thing could be measured , doesn’t mean it should. Conversely however, in his keynote interview, David Olusoga was very clear that in important areas quantitative evidence was really vital. Thanks to the statistics that the UK government and ONS collects on ethnicity and other areas of identity, we can understand lived experience, identify prejudice and hopefully, take action. As he commented, in France "there is no such thing as racism" – they don’t collect the data because everyone is identified as 'French'.

There was so much in the contributions made at the Insight Alchemy 2023 conference that it is clear why we in the UK have a dominant voice in research globally. At a  market size of over £8bn (more than three times the value of the biscuit market) clearly there is a lot of alchemy going on.     

Read coverage of all sesions at Insight Alchemy 2023

You can read coverage of all the sessions at Insigth Alchemy 2023 on Research Live.


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