Insight of the Year 2011

Welcome to 2012! As with every new year this year too brings with it new hope and a plethora of new year resolutions that unlike yesteryears would not be forgotten right after they are carved in stone…err…on a tablet I presume. Something tells me they too would meet a fate that is rather expected, almost certain I dare say. Well this post is about the unexpected. On a personal note Incito Mentis is now two years old. I personally did not expect to come this far. It’s been an enriching journey that I sure hope to continue with in the forseeable future, God willing. Unlike last year when I covered some of the key lessons from my first year of blogging this time around I am going to cover my personal favorites of the year from three categories – Insights, Ideas and Technology.  These are the same three areas that I most often write and think about. This post is the first of three posts and is going to cover “Insight of the Year”.

Before I can begin I have to admit that we have a problem. A problem of definition. What is an insight? It’s like one of those many topics in marketing that have as many definitions as the marketers themselves (including the ones who think they are marketers…lucky for you since you are reading this post I believe you are NOT one of them). Questions like ‘What is Marketing? What is a Brand? How do you define Activation? etc.’ all fall under this elusive area for which there is NO ONE right answer. Adding to the confusion I too, a self-proclaimed insight expert, would define an insight as ‘the discovery of an underlying truth’. In the context of my work in brand communications this would be mean “the discovery of an underlying human truth”. Now that we have the definition out of the way (so I think!). Let’s look at what I discovered this year that would be my pick for “Insight of the Year 2011.” No nominees just one clear winner. This is not the Oscars or is it!?

Well I live and work in Saudi Arabia and have been doing so for the last 6 years. As an expatriate working in this region it has been very hard for me to make sense of Arab culture and Saudi society. In 2011 the dots seemed to connect, as a wise man once said, and I came to discover a very unexpected truth about Saudi Arabia and it’s people. Saudi Arabia is a “Land of Paradoxes”.  This seemed like that one one thing that explained much of their observed behavior if not everything. Saudi Arabia is not a land of grey but a land of distinct blacks and equally distinct whites. In other words for every observed behavior there is most likely an equal and opposite set of behaviors to be seen that would contradict everything that was known prior to the fact . As a reader of this post, it would be fair to weigh in a heavy dose of skepticism to this theory. Platonified reductionism does not necessarily lead to a fresh insight but personally I have found this idea very unexpected and unique to Saudi Arabia.

Try it for any observed behavior in the kingdom and a paradox would be equally true. I have attempted to capture this theory in a keynote presentation. You can check it out here. Subsequent posts to understand Saudi culture have further added to this belief, also captured in another post here.

Hope you enjoyed reading this! I would love to hear your point of view on the subject even if it contradicts my own! After all, this post is all about paradoxes to begin with.

Happy Insight Mining in 2012!

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