Insights: identify actionable patterns and themes across customers

This is the third post in our Design Thinking series. If you'd like, start with the big picture and delve into Discovery before diving in on Insights. 

Many business leaders who learn about the Discovery process remain skeptical—won't gathering hundreds or thousands of observations (and complaints) from customers distract us from our core mission? Empathy and connection may generate good feelings, but not actionable plans. 

The Insights phase of Design Thinking answers these concerns. It trains your organization to reframe its engagement with customer needs. While responsiveness to small bugs and service problems remains valuable, this step elevates individual data points into strategic opportunities.

More tangibly, during the insights process, your team:

  • Weaves individual stories into actionable, business-oriented themes Rather than continually fighting fires, your team draws on their observations and identifies thematic overlap to see what everyone else sees in a way no one else has seen.
  • Connects with internal stakeholders who may not have been part of Discovery. The Insights process involves a broader audience, creating the opportunity to connect internal experience with customer input. For example, an observation about customers' last-minute purchase decisions may trigger a sales manager to recall a conversation from a recent trade show about supply chain challenges.

Again, let’s go back to Toyota's transition to a mobility company.

The Discovery team should have hundreds of Observations and converts their hour-long interviews into a 4-5 sentence story, sharing the associated “Moral of the story,” which is the Insights.  

After listening to all Observations and Insights, participants cluster the individual quotes, facts, and reactions, written on Post-it notes, into Affinity Diagrams or Clusters. Insight generation is an exercise in quantity over quality; copying Insights to separate Affinity Diagrams is encouraged. By the end, the walls of the room will be covered in Post-it notes such as:


Soon, you will start to notice patterns as you group Post-it notes together, which will help you create insights. For example:

  1. Identifying points that are not obvious: Rich countries implementing electric vehicle-based mobility solutions does not offset pollution caused by production in poorer countries.

  2. Explaining patterns in your data: Range anxiety causes distrust of electric vehicles, so users will not trust EV-based mobility services.

  3. Making sense of contradictions: Implementation of electric vehicle-only mandates increases longevity of gas-fueled cars and may create a cottage industry to repair those cars among holdouts AND the ultra-wealthy.

  4. Creating hypothesis around "why?": residents fear this switch because they don’t see the city infrastructure to support an endless stream of driver-less pods roaming around town.

Engaging customers deeply to understand the "why" behind their needs, and then identifying often-unexpected patterns, lays the foundation for developing breakthrough business ideas during Ideation, the next phase of the Design Thinking process.


At The Berkeley Innovation Group, we are co-creators, working shoulder-to-shoulder with your team on immersive design thinking projects to solve core business challenges. Moreover, individuals on your team are empowered with enhanced skills and a common language to continue using design thinking methodologies to unlock innovation and value for the long run.

Want to work together? Contact us below.