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The fine art of practicing what you preach

inside of a cathedral looking up

Creating a business with a stated mission to uncover growth for organisations through the adoption of a human-centric mindset is a bold idea to embrace as a central organising thought.

In a nutshell

  1. TRA has developed a set of central tenants as to how insight into people can be applied to business strategy and tactics to drive growth.
  2. Firstly, curated data provides necessary foresight which acts as a starting point for our thinking.
  3. Secondly, ideas need to be developed in collaboration with real people to provide guidance on execution.
  4. Thirdly, applying science provides the rigour we need for successful creative thought.

Growth is the promised land, and it’s a big game to talk that you’ve got the keys to the kingdom. But that’s what we have set out to do with TRA. From the outset our entire focus has been on understanding how insight into human behaviour can power organisational growth. How placing people at the heart of decision-making can create better outcomes for everyone – people get better stuff, and organisations get recognised for their contribution to a better life through improved commercial success.

And from the very beginning we were acutely aware that if we wanted to convince our clients to change their behaviour around decision-making models to adopt a practice of customer-centricity, we would have to practice what we preach. After all, if you can’t show success from applying your principles to your own endeavours, what have you got?

Proof is in the pudding

So a bit like crazed Victorian scientists, testing batches of magic elixir on themselves, we have been applying our own central tenants as to how insight into people can be applied to business strategy and tactics to drive growth over the years, iterating our ideas and helping to hone our consultancy practice through this self-experimentation.

The outcomes have changed everything for us.

TRA has twice been named in the Deloitte Fast 50, we have been recognised as one of the most innovative companies is Australasia by the Australian Financial Review, we’ve been an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and, just recently, a piece of our client work was recognised globally as the most effective use of insight at driving business outcomes. We have grown at an annualised rate of almost 25% p.a. since inception 11 years ago and continue to eye future progress.

It makes me feel hugely proud of our people and practice to have achieved these milestones, but the truth is that much of it simply comes down to understanding how to put the end user of our work – people – at the heart of how we plan and execute. It is our focus on understanding what it is we do for them that creates this success.

TRA’s own growth model

There is much we have written on this subject, and we have a Manifesto that we share with all who request it (yes, please do ask for one!), but there are a few overarching ideas in how to embrace customer-centricity to unlock growth that are central to this practice.

First, in the pursuit of growth, we must start out aiming for foresight through the practice of customer-centricity. We can’t read the future, but we can gain a very good feel for where things are going. And if we wish to grow, it is this forward view we must unlock – especially within our much more volatile current business world.

At TRA we favour the curation of data points over simply talking to people to achieve this. For example, we can read how society is shifting in response to forces such as technology, environmental and demographic movements and marry this with big data on what people are talking about, posting, snapping and tweeting online. It is our belief, and experience, that one can be very clear on which direction the ship needs to be pointed when this future lens is our starting point for thinking.

From here, our second big principle is that the ideas we surface to drive growth need to be developed in collaboration with the people expected to use them.

We may have a view on where things are likely to head from our foresight work, but we are very unlikely to gauge execution of this perfectly right off the mark. This is where we need time with people working through how they respond, and considering our thinking up to this moment as a jumping off point rather than a rubber stamp to validate our pre-existing genius. For us this has meant frequent engagement with clients from diverse organisations and roles ranging from direct insight user to CEO.

The third big pillar to touch on, which runs through everything, is that using human insight to unlock growth is a real art-meets-science process. So much is known now about how our brains work, what drives our behaviour and how we are likely to respond to different prompts when they are placed in front of us. Not just as nice ideas that can’t really be proven, but as actual empirically validated fact.

The crazy thing is that many out there in the business world simply choose to ignore this stuff, falling back instead on old ideas and approaches that have no merit at all, but feel comfortable and controllable. But for all this science, there is still a need for interpretation, for feeling out what it is that all our analysis means and where we must take it.

So, a curated data-driven forward view, a collaborative approach to understanding how to execute, and the unrelenting application of science to provide us with a canvas for creative interpretation. If you can get this basic structure active within your business, you’ll start to find a new, better lens for tackling the age old problem of growth. And having drunk the elixir, I can tell you it works.

Andrew Lewis
Managing Director at TRA

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