5 rules for getting insight right

Credit: Weegee’s day at the beach

How the dickens do you arrive at the right insight that gets to the heart of your audience and unlocks their relationship with your product, service, or brand? An insight is the dark matter of humanity. It is out there somewhere but is so hard to find. But when one finds an insight, it shimmers like a JJ Abrams lens flare. It is that unvarnished human truth we all recognise when we encounter it.


Here are my five rules to make it easier to get to an insight

Find the contradictions in your audience

The idiosyncrasies of human behaviour are sources of real insight. It’s the reason why people sign up to weight-loss programmes despite them having a poor record of success when it comes to keeping weight off. It is why seemingly rational folk pile their life saving into Bitcoin or some other bubble at their peak. Human behaviour is meant to be rational, but the background chatter of our minds is irrational.

Embrace imperfect outcomes

Never assume that the ‘perfect’ insight will reveal itself under the battering ram of more or big(ger) data. There comes a point when research material being mined will stubbornly reveal only marginal outcomes. Design for messy outcomes that can’t be readily quantified and measured. Because guess what? Our lives and the world around us is imperfect.

Thick data is your friend

Insight into what people take for granted can be gleaned from thick data. Thick data is the sticky stuff of life itself. It’s the stories people tell, the emotions expressed and how they see and behave in the world around them. Thick data comes with a big dollop of empathy and getting skilled up as a researcher or ethnographer to tune in and coax out insights is well worth it.

Avoid ideal stereotypes / scenarios

Plan for outlying types of people and situations. Thinking about the extremes of human behaviour helps you avoid slipping into lazy generalisations about your audience. Silicon Valley is doing a great job of projecting it’s world view on users. You don’t have to.

Beware of superficial truths

An insight should pack a punch to the gut and head as the human mind does not readily glom onto superficial truths.

Insights aren’t said, they are felt. — Tom Morton

A truth that cuts to the bone is one that unlocks the compulsion and instincts of human nature


In an age where we strive to build behaviour changing empires from codes of perfection, we ignore the blemishes we have. But it is from the crooked timber of humanity which our behaviour expresses itself and where these insights can be found.


Tom Eldridge is a Strategist who combines behavioural and design thinking techniques to deliver human centred value