I have repeatedly heard the word insight as something to be observed, as in "We observed several insights on that consumer interview."

There are several entries in for the word insight.  In different ways, they all describe insight as an understanding of the true motivational forces that drive actions, define underlying truths, shed light on, or help to solve a problem.  Assuming that is true, insights cannot be observed directly; they need to be inferred or derived by thinking critically about the observations we make.

The word insight, as it is applied to consumer research, is increasingly misrepresented.  Observing behaviors and describing them is a fairly straightforward exercise, and many people can easily do this.  Deriving insights requires the ability to observe, infer why the observation occurred, formulate a theory, test the hypothesis against multiple data sources, and construct an argument that will prove that the conclusion is valid. A smaller subset of people who possess a specific aptitude and attitude are best suited to do this.

Almost everyone, however, has the ability to understand the difference between an observation and an insight. Mistaking them is understandable for most, but if you use consumer insights to inform your work, please make sure you know the difference.