Insights from the Castle

For anyone who has been following Jen and I on our design research journey with Castle Hill Fitness, you know that we last posted about mapping concepts and interactions we found in the data and called them service slices. Since then, we’ve been working on developing insights.

Insights were presented to us as being provocative statements of truth about human behavior,  inferences, and bridges between research and design. They are built off of the previous work we’ve done creating themes, and service slices. To do this, we first re-phrased all of our themes into why questions. Next we went through all the data we’d grouped to create that theme to answer the why question. Finally, we extrapolated a direction to move in or a kind of recommendation. What this looked like for us was timed 15 minute rounds of silent individual insight development followed by walking each other through what we’d developed and giving feedback.

We also invited our client into the studio to participate in insight creation as well. This was really fun, and helpful. Not only was this a great learning opportunity for us to practice explaining the process to someone, but she was able to see firsthand what we’re up to, provide feedback, and give us direction and additional knowledge as someone who knows the ins and outs of Castle Hill Fitness. When she arrived we gave her the lay of the land by walking around the workspace and explaining what things were, and then we all took some time to just read and process some of the data individually. Then we set to work insighting together.

Once we had developed all our insights it was time to figure out how we would present them, and create a problem statement. We learned a problem statement is a succinct description of the issue or latent need that’s worth solving. When we thought about creating a problem statement we were initially drawn to two areas of our research. The first was the theme and insight regarding the new member onboarding process at Castle Hill Fitness. If you remember back to the start of this project the onboarding process was what we were seeking to gain more understanding around.

The second thing that stood out to us was the idea of community. The concept of community kept popping up in our interviews, data, themes, and insights. So we took small post-its marked with the letter ‘C’ and placed them on all the insights that touched on community. This gave us a visual reference on the wall for how prevalent it was in our data, and allowed us to navigate the relevant insights dealing with community to choose ones that stood out to us further.

'C' stickies denoting community related themes and insights.
‘C’ stickies denoting community related themes and insights.

Since both ideas stood out strongly in the data and in our minds as relevant we decided to move forward with creating problem statements for both the onboarding process and creating community at Castle Hill Fitness. The plan was that through this process it would become clear to us which one was the real winner. What ended up happening though was that they came together to create a problem statement that felt even more robust than if they’d stood alone.

Castle Hill Fitness needs to create a more consistent member experience through onboarding to build community and set themselves apart from other gyms.

Next we chose insights that played into and supported this problem statement. This was relatively straightforward as we’d been using the insights and themes to inform the problem in the first place. However, we did need to pare them down a bit so we were only presenting the ones we thought would be most impactful and relevant for our client.  

Below are three key insights that came out of this process.

Insight #1

Friends are a key motivator to working out because they are a safety net of trust and emotional support. Castle Hill Fitness should encourage more gym visits with friends (accountabilibuddies).

Insight #2

The issue of onboarding (what is it? how long does it take?) is a result of a lack of leadership and a product of staff turnover. Castle Hill Fitness should define what it means, create a process and train the sales team to get to that goal.

Insight #3

Some employees’ work flows have made them into silos and they have to work extra hard to achieve transparency. Castle Hill Fitness should find a way to build this into the infrastructure.

Client Feedback:

She was super excited to see our insight about how friends are a key motivator for working out because as the Marketing Director she’s starting 4 new promotions around inviting your friends to work out.

She also mentioned that some of the issues had been fixed, like Avery’s silo. She mentioned that they use a forum now so it’s more transparent than it used to be.

She said that having all this data, all these quotes, from a third party was so valuable and she’s generally really excited about our research.

One thing that she suggested would have been helpful is that she doesn’t remember who all of our participants are so the names don’t help her. She would rather they say “Employee,” “Manager” or “Member.”


In class we learned that insights should be provocative, and when we relayed this to our client as we were creating insights together she understandably asked why? Oddly enough, I hadn’t asked myself that question. I think, I’d been caught up in just trying to trust the process and do the work that I hadn’t taken the time to really reflect and question why we were trying to be so provocative. This might also be related to how consistently the use of emotion and personality in storytelling has been stressed to us. To be honest, at first, I just thought of course it’s supposed to be provocative, because the design process is being dramatic, extra, and emotional to differentiate itself and be over the top. And maybe that is true sometimes, but after discussing provocation more, I realized it’s more about bridging the gap between what is and what could be. By creating reactions we are able to push the boundaries and question how things currently are which creates space to imagine how things could be. So I’m imagining all our little provocative insights as these focused little tools to help push us to know what we don’t know. Which is pretty awesome.

Another obvious realization we had was about the problem statement. Once we had a problem statement drafted we were feeling pretty good. Until we realized that wording is pretty important, especially if you’re trying to deliver a clear, succinct, and impactful description of a problem. So what happened is we went back into the weeds and began iterating on our problem statement and came up with 23984321 statements basically all saying the same thing, but in slightly different ways. This was pretty maddening, and something I hope we just get better at with time and experience. Not sure if we came to one that we thought was the absolute perfect problem statement, but we generated a bunch that we felt good about and chose one. So, win.