The podcast for corporate Insight leaders
May 18, 2022

Episode 6: Making up the numbers

Episode 6: Making up the numbers

In this 15-minute episode, James asks if our Insight teams should start making up their numbers.

Does the idea of making up the numbers fill you with horror?

It shouldn’t… making up the numbers, in other words becoming comfortable with estimation techniques and focusing on accuracy rather than precision, is actually a critical skill for everyone in Insight. It supports agile decision-making, forces you to explain your assumptions, and facilitates constructive conversations with others who are trying to solve business problems.

Topics Discussed

  • The difference between accuracy and precision (3.23)
  • Back of an envelope intelligent guesswork (4.47)
  • How to handle big numbers (6.27)
  • A technique to help our mental maths (7.48)
  • How many Insight directors do you need to size the toothpaste market? (10.05)


  • “To support agile decision-making, our senior stakeholders often need answers fast, even if it’s just ‘something to work with’. So, for every decision, a trade-off needs to be made between insights based on perfect data and agile decisions. This middle ground is where the most workable solutions are found.”
  • “In many instances, an accurate range of outcomes is far more useful in Insight than a precise number that will almost certainly never be right and might well give a false impression of confidence.”
  • “This bit might surprise you, but we actually want our stakeholders to challenge our assumption. This is because our stakeholders may be in a better position to supply an accurate figure, but also because being transparent about our assumptions helps us to work collaboratively with others and get to better answers.”
  • “What I hope becomes clear from a very simple example like this, is that even if we have no prior knowledge of a topic, we can arrive at a perfectly reasonable estimate if we use Facts, Assumptions and Logic.”

This is episode 6 of the Transforming Insight podcast. 

If you have the ambition to transform your Insight team and the role it plays in your organisation, please tune in to future episodes. Not only will we explore the 42 secrets of successful corporate Insight teams as outlined in the Transforming Insight book, but we will also talk to senior corporate Insight leaders, delve into books that have inspired us, and discuss new best practice research carried out with the IMA’s corporate members.

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About James Wycherley, the author of Transforming Insight

James Wycherley was Director of Customer Insight and Analytics at Barclays from 2005 to 2015 when he became Chief Executive of the Insight Management Academy (IMA). A popular keynote speaker and acknowledged expert on Insight leadership, strategy, and communication, he is the author of the book Transforming Insight: the 42 secrets of successful corporate Insight teams, and over 35 IMA publications. He has provided thought leadership in the UK, Western Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, India, and the Middle East. Over the last five years, over 20,000 Insight professionals worldwide have received his 5 Minute Insight emails.


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The Transforming Insight podcast is published by the Insight Management Academy and produced by Zorbiant.

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