Signals to Insight

An insight, according to common definition, is the act of “seeing into” a situation or understanding the “inner nature” of what has been witnessed. An insight encapsulates a generally acceptable compression of researched signals. Our experience has shown that the most useful insights are the nonobvious and even surprising ones.

Research techniques, like POEMS, produce a vast number of loose and unrelated signals, which point to people, objects and the wider context they are operating in.
The method “observations to insights” systematically thinks through all these collected bits and pieces, and extracts valuable insights. It is an effective method to CLUSTER (and converge) within the research phase.

Required Input

  • Contextual signals:
  • Observations captured during field activities
  • Photos of key aspects
  • Optional, key facts and findings of expert studies (not older than 12 months)

Benefits

  • Supports transition of contextual information from different sources
  • Builds common knowledge foundation
  • Encourages comprehensiveness and promotes shared understanding

Expected Output

  • Collection of structured insights that can be traced back to corresponding sources

HOW IT WORKS

STEP 1 – GATHER SIGNALS AND DESCRIBE THEM

Signals shall be presented in form of photos with the core essence written on it and/or marked in the picture. For each signal, write a small yet very precise description as a factual statement of what is happening in the picture. Try not to construe or judge at this point – focus on clearly describing signals and be as precise as possible. Signals need to be self- explanatory and shall not require for any additional clarification. Your peers need to understand your signals and should be able to work with them autonomously.

STEP 2 – ASK WHY AND FIND UNEMOTIONAL RATIONALE

As a group, question why these signals are occurring and what they actually stand for. Find out people’s reasoning behind their actions and behaviours – and especially question the contributor of the signal why he/she brought it forward.
In this situation, the method LADDERING QUESTIONS proves to be effective. It is a way to move from ambiguous surface statements, which are very often emotionally driven, to objective root causes and core values.

AN EXAMPLE

You are gathering signals with a colleague, who conducted field research. Pointing at a particular photo, your colleague says, “This feature is horrible, our customer just hated it!” That is an emotional statement, without pointing at any objective root cause to react upon. In this way, the signal has little to none value.
In order to enhance it, you would follow up with a “ladder down” question – “Why is that feature horrible?” Your colleague might say, “It costs our customer so much more time.” The root cause is not emotionally driven anymore – yet, not precise enough.
Then you continue with another ladder-down question – “Why does it cost him a lot of time?” Your colleague replies, “He needs to find the dialog menu first, because he just cannot use the pop-up menu.” That was the real root cause, why this feature is horrible to the customer. Now the signal has got value to work with. 
In this short series of “why” questions, you have already gone from a general emotional statement to one that gets at the underlying issue: a particular feature increases the amount of movement and search time the customer needs to perform a certain task.

STEP 3 – ORGANIZE AND CLUSTER THE DESCRIBED SIGNALS

Organize all relevant signals and cluster them into families. Thereby you condense the amount of signals according to their underlying meaning and essence.

STEP 4 – DESCRIBE THE INSIGHTS

Give the signal families tiles and describe what all the signals within this family have in common. Write down this concise and objective insight statement for each family. Again, try to be very precise, yet objective and do not evaluate. You got an insight.

IMPORTANT

Make sure that each insight is precisely described and does not require for any explanation.

WHAT CAN INSIGHTS BE USED FOR?

Stakeholder communication: introduce researched topics and is- sues to your stakeholders in this visual manner. The main infor- mation is quickly grasped by stakeholders and can be the founda- tions for decision-making
Raw material for Personae – see Empathy Map
Raw material for Touch Point Analyses – see User 
Journey Map

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