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What is an insight, and how does it help us build human-centered businesses?

At Polymath the use of the design thinking methodology has allowed us to discover and understand deep needs of the middle class via analysis of human behavior and motivations. During the Seed process (a collaborative process of discovery and experimentation) we try to reveal true insights via exhaustive investigation and information synthesis.

The term “insight” has been utilized frequently the past few years in the areas of marketing and design, however given its focus on understanding people, it is applicable in other corporate contexts, for example sales and internal corporate functions. Although its use is frequent, there remains significant uncertainty about its true meaning.

From a human centered design perspective, an insight is:

  • An observation about human behavior that results in seeing consumers from a fresh perspective and challenges the status-quo.
  • A discovery and understanding of the underlying motivations that guide personal actions.

An insight is not a simple observation about human behavior, nor a declaration of something a consumer desires.

Which brings us to the following question: How do we recognize an insight?

An insight should:

  • Answer the question “why?”
  • Connect with consumers at an emotional level and demonstrate true empathy.
  • Reexamine conventional wisdom and challenge the status-quo. This means that it should reveal an unknown motivation.

The most powerful insights come from a serious and rigorous analysis of large quantities of information collected through investigative methods in the field, such as in-depth interviews, observations, focus groups, journey mapping, among others. If you want to truly understand human experiences and emotions, interviews and desktop research are insufficient.

During the investigation phase of KIDU, our team spoke with more than 30 women and men of different social classes and lifestyles, leading to an extremely valuable insight: working women feel guilty when they are not with their child and they do not spend the little free time that they have on themselves. This insight brought us to the question, “what can we do to alleviate that guilt that working mothers feel when they are working and can’t be with their children”? As an educational space where their children can develop non-cognitive skills while they receive homework support from tutors, KIDU was developed as a solution to a latent and real problem for mothers in Colombia.

It is important to remember that insights are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding people, and are not a solution per se. During the creative process insights must take us to the ideation phase (concept design) in order to then pass through an exhaustive revision and prototyping stage where ideas are tested, revised and refined in order to take them to the next level. Only through a deep understanding of personal motivations is it possible to build businesses that solve real needs.


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