By AdamTheBruce (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

There we were cresting a pass along Highway 40 in route to Steamboat Springs. I found myself scanning the beautiful terrain while engrossed in a conversation about one of my favorite research topics – naturally occurring data. Call it research purist meets strategist for the knockout round.

As a consultant who leads data-driven strategy processes I’ve learned that not all data is created equal. I’ve also learned to value experience and intuition just as I value data derived from research. After all, aren’t the most powerful insights those that derive from a combination of data, intuition and experience?

Several years ago, I noticed a pattern. If I didn’t say the thing I believed to be true based on my experience and insights, I often regretted it later. I found myself wondering why I wasn’t valuing my own experience more.

And that same realization bopped me on the head again this year after returning home from Steamboat.

Why wasn’t I valuing my own experience as much as my intuition? Perhaps I’d given my intuition center-stage to honor it when I’m amidst folks who value facts and numbers.

But what about 20 years of experience? I’m not saying experience that is 20 years old. I’m talking about an accumulation of naturally occurring data over 20 years.

The thing I love about naturally occurring data is that it can be as powerful and valuable as data derived from surveys, focus groups, and other constructed research environments. (Thank you, market research profession, for honoring what I knew to be true.) That data exists all around us – and if we can stay attuned to it – we can gather that data up into trends, patterns and insights.

I always remind my clients that the world doesn’t stop when you are engaged in strategic planning. Day-to-day operations go on while we contemplate bold aspirations for the future. And the naturally occurring data we gather along the way can serve either the day-to-day, or the strategic, or both.

Experience has taught me that all forms of data are powerful – and together they can be synergistic.

Fact. Perception. Intuition.

Add it all up to experience. Naturally occurring.