IGS Genesis

The Genesis of Insight Generation

Professor John M. McCann
Fuqua School of Business
Duke University

Insight generation was conceived in the early days of the Marketing Workbench Laboratory, where the focus was on building prototype expert systems for use in consumer packaged goods sales and marketing. As with any invention process, we went down a number of different paths during the 1986-1990 period. These paths involved many different expert system technologies and a multitude of marketing and sales problems. The research approach was experiential in nature: build an innovative system which solved a marketing or sales problem and learn new things via the process of building the system and presenting it to sales, marketing, and systems managers in a large number of companies. In the beginning, there were no clear visions of the underlying theme of the various innovations, other than the use of expert system technologies for producing the systems. The basic idea was to the find a problem, solve the problem, use introspection to arrive at the methodology being used to solve the problem, and then use an expert system shell to build a expert system which solved the problem.

Once a number of the systems had been built, we did a form of meta-analysis to determine the features shared by the disparate systems. This analysis led to a recognition that the early systems were all writing short reports, in English, which summarized the findings of the application of the expertise in the system. We could see that our operative model of the user of the systems was a reader ... someone who reads reports rather than analyze data.

This recognition led us to overtly apply a "writing model" that evolved over time through discussions and statements that are reflected in the following:

These thoughts and snatches of conversations occurred over a four year period. One can see how new ideas flowed from a yearning to make the word processor the center of the analysis process and involved the progressive/sequential process of building a prototype system and then thinking broadly about it to find the next step. This hyperbook takes the reader along the journey we traveled. It presents our ideas, concepts, and prototypes so that the reader can come away with a clear understanding of an evolutionary path for marketing systems.