Published July 23, 2019

Balancing gut instinct with data informed search analytics

You may find it a little taboo for a data analytics consultancy to talk about the value of gut feelings. But for as long as we know, successful business leaders..


You may find it a little taboo for a data analytics consultancy to talk about the value of gut feelings. But for as long as we know, successful business leaders have at some point used an element of ‘gut-feel’ to make some (or even all) of their decisions. It’s an inherent part of human nature to rely on emotional instinct to guide cognitive decision making. 

Ever heard some of these common phrases pop up before?

“It just feels right”

“We have to just back ourselves and give it a crack”

“What’s your gut telling you?”

“We’ll take our best guess”

“I got a goddamn feeling and I gotta chase this” 

…Ok, maybe not that last one. 

And in today’s age where enterprises are often swimming in data and working to make sense of all of this information, it’s easy to lose sight of how our gut instinct should play a role in making informed decisions. 

But the truth is, when we find a beautiful balance between our experiences, knowledge, and judgements, and have a raft of data insights at the ready to support our ‘gut-feel’, we can make business decisions that are confident and more importantly, informed. 

At a recent executive lunch in partnership with search and AI analytics leaders ThoughtSpot, we discussed how data insights may help us answer some hypothetical questions that we experience in business. Questions that may arise on a day to day basis that rely on some element of informed analytical validation to ensure the necessary level of ‘context’ is applied. 

We engaged a range of high-level executives in a classic Design Thinking exercise called “How Might We…”. The participants were asked to think of a problem area relating to data in their organisation. They were then asked to phrase it as a question, reformatting the problem to suggest that a solution is possible.

By leading with an open statement in “How Might We…”, we were able to provoke thought around how we can use the power of search and AI-driven analytics to answer some pain-points in modern business, and simplify how we source and use our own data to bring our gut-feel and insights into the perfect union. 

Here’s what we discovered.

How Might We…Get answers to our questions faster and more effectively?

Example: You’re in a meeting and you want to know what your sales were for the previous quarter on the spot. 

By simply searching “Sales this quarter” on the ThoughtSpot landing page, we can get a quick and immediate answer to basic but important questions in your business.

How Might We…Empower our employees to leverage our enterprise data to make their own decisions?

Example: Preparing for a meeting with client of specific background, due to begin shortly. You may want to understand their individual spending behaviours by directly searching for habits of spends from a specific demographic.

By compounding our search, in this case “sales by product name students…” we can understand the product most purchased by students. We can replace students with any specific occupation, or wider demographic in the dataset such as male, female, age groups etc.

How Might We…Create our own suite of custom data bookmarks that pull real-time information?

Example: After making some insightful searches, you want to be able to capture all of these insights in one place.


By creating topical pinboards we can capture all of the relevant searches that relate to a specific topic – this allows to compare searches or to save and review at a later date.

How Might We...Better understand which customers are most likely to purchase our products?

Example: Using geographic spend trend to tailor marketing for each geography.

‘Sales by state wine’ exhibits wine sales whilst displaying thoughtspots geoanalytics functionality.  Searching by geography or demographic helps the user to understand customers.

How Might WeBe able to pull insights or reports in real time on important parts of our business?

Example – You require simple, up to date answers to questions without unnecessarily adding to your BI Teams backlog.

ThoughtSpots natural language search engine improves the accessibility and analysis of data for all users.

How Might WePredict long-term effect of our decisions?

Example: Needing to forecast performance of company based on potential decisions.

Using R coding, it is possible in thoughtSpot to project future business performance based on historical data.

How Might WeGive our employees freedom to explore and leverage hidden insights in our data?

Example: You understand how one parameter may effect your business (e.g. time of year), but are very curious as to what else influences your business (e.g geography, time of day), but don’t have the time to exhaust every option.

Thoughtspots SpotIQ features allow the user to delegate analysis of the full data set, or selected fields to an ML engine that curates insights and charts that may be useful. By describing whether each chart is useful or not, the SpotIQ experience will be more tailored to the users likes and dislikes.

So what can we take out of this? Well, in today’s rapidly evolving business environment, it’s important to make good decisions. And the foundation of all good decisions usually revolves around looking to instinct and data to make informed decisions that are sustainable. Time is of the essence, and our ability to source key information quickly and reliably underpins our ability to move forward with clarity and confidence across all areas of our business. 

Empowering the people within our businesses to leverage enterprise data to inform their own decisions in real-time is key to finding insights and drilling infinitely into company data literally within seconds.

Here are our top 3 tips to get you thinking about driving speed to insight through search and AI analytics technology. 

1) Drive self-service.  Get this simple to use search-based analytics tool into the hands of the people who are making decisions every day.  Free up your specialised BI team to be doing the more complex and fulfilling work – tackling the tough data challenges.  

2) Use all data.  ThoughtSpot can deal with massive amounts of data so expose as much as you can to your user base.  Exposing the data and enabling users to access it at speed will go a long way to helping to improve data quality over time.  

3) Use ML.  Take advantage of SpotIQ to push intelligent insights out to your users.  The more it is used, the more feedback received, the smarter the insights.  Users benefit from auto-generated insights and don’t need to come up with all the questions themselves.  

Learn more about how Aginic and ThoughtSpot can help you derive insights simply, smarter and faster.  


Get in touch with David Hodges

With over 20 years consulting experience including 9 as a Big4 partner, helping clients improve performance and manage risk better. I dived headfirst into the world of data and haven’t looked back! I co-founded Aginic Sydney and love being a part of our awesome growth story, working with our incredibly talented crew to solve business problems differently with data. Love tennis, running, and all things Max Tegmark.

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