Turning Insights into Opportunities


Iteration is a major theme throughout each phase of design thinking. Through the repetitive process of expanding and focusing, and then expanding and focusing again, breakthrough ideas emerge and concepts begin to evolve and mature along the way. Turning insights into opportunities is no different. Building on phases one and two of design thinking, the third phase unpacks and synthesizes inspiration and empathy findings into compelling insights in order to frame and focus your efforts into meaningful, actionable opportunities.


How is this accomplished? Over many years of tackling countless client design challenges, we’ve observed three key steps to help you land on promising opportunities that will be primed and ready for further development:

1. Identify insights

What needs, desires, or parameters for the user were discovered during the build empathy and inspiration phase? Specific data was gathered, and now it is time to summarize and engage with that information to form insights. It’s about connecting the dots, looking for trends, and thinking about what really matters to people. We find the following prompts helpful in identifying the top insights to pull forward:

+  People seem to value…
+  People are motivated by…
+  People need…

2. Ask “Why/What’s Stopping You”

Once top insights have been identified, it’s important to pause and ask “Why?” and “What’s stopping you?” for each insight. These simple questions can unlock key pieces of information you might have otherwise missed, expose deeper layers to your insight, and expand your pool of possible opportunities to explore further.

3. Frame the Opportunity with “How Might We…”

Now that top insights have been narrowed and refined through steps one and two, you will be able to pinpoint a specific opportunity to brainstorm. As with the overall design challenge, framing your opportunity statement as an open-ended “How might we…” question positions the mind to think creatively and helps set a positive, solutions-oriented tone going into brainstorming.

To illustrate this process, let’s take a look at the infamous business case study from the 1970’s of Proctor and Gamble’s (P&G) race with Colgate to create the best soap. In 1973, Colgate launched their Irish Spring Deodorant Soap with a green stripes; a radical new technology that revolutionized the soap industry and generated billions for Colgate. Searching for a golden opportunity that would beat the competition, P&G experimented with innovative techniques, now known as design thinking, to jumpstart stalled product development efforts.

Based on market comparison and the success of Colgate’s Irish Spring, P&G focused all their efforts on the insight that customers prefer green striped soap. So, creating a better green striped soap became the driving goal of their product development. After their prototype failed to beat the competition in a series of blind customer focus group tests, P&G realized something was missing.

The game-changing moment happened when P&G industrial engineer, Min Basadur, challenged this insight with two simple questions: Why? And, what’s stopping us? Asking these questions helped them uncover the missing link. The key insight was not that people prefer green striped soap, but rather that they value refreshing soap.

Once P&G stopped chasing the wrong opportunity and honed in on the “refreshment” insight, they finally found their silver lining. Reframing their opportunity from “How Might We make a better green striped soap?” to “How Might We make a more refreshing bar of soap?” eventually led to the development and launch of P&G’s soap called Coast, which took off and gave P&G a successful run against Colgate’s Irish Spring.

Interested in learning more about how design thinking can help you and your organization uncover new innovation opportunities? We offer a number of Design Workshops that equip teams with design thinking know-how to help solve complex business problems and chart a course for success.