When contestants begin a Food Network’s Chopped challenge, they are given a basket of random ingredients and asked to make an entrée. No recipe books, no Pinterest, no “phone my mom” option. The concoctions created with seemingly unrelated ingredients must flow directly from the minds of the chefs.

Did they get a guidebook to follow? Nope. Did they have a handy how-to guide that walked them through step-by-step what they had to do with the ingredients at their fingertips? Negative. The chefs are faced with only the data the ingredients provide and their own intuition.

As I sat watching these chefs whip up their treats, it got me thinking – this is exactly what we as marketers and communicators do every day. First, we observe and take data and insights we find from our “ingredients,” and then we make something cohesive out of seemingly unrelated odds and ends – our finished meal, so to speak.

The chefs grab their beets and lamb; we collect our data. Where the challenge lies is with the analyzing and figuring out what comes next. As marketers, we are bombarded with information and data from all directions. Social media data, web analytics, email marketing metrics, oh my! It’s our job to take bits and pieces from one tool, a few tidbits from another, and with it tell a story that ends with actionable takeaways.

So what comes next after the data collections? Insights – the storytelling. For chefs, it’s the cooking. With no recipes to follow, turning the data into insights comes from intuition. Using your gut instinct to combine pieces of information you may not have otherwise connected to create new insights and stories. This skill comes with experience.

Data can only get you so far – what tactic works for one company may be unsuccessful for another. You don’t wake up one day and decide to go on Chopped and whip up a fantastic meal using just a tomato, a few mushrooms, scallops and a beet. So, what can Chopped teach us about marketing? It takes trial and error, experiments with flavor and a whole lot of bad eggs to realize what works and what doesn’t. And what worked in one dish won’t necessarily work in another. The same can be said for marketing.

As an industry, it is important to stop trying to solve problems with cookie-cutter responses. Trust your gut. Glue the pieces together and see what you get – you may just be surprised with what you come up with.