insights with we are blood.

When telling our service client that we were developing “insights,” we felt the need to clarify. The word “insight” is usually treated as shorthand for “brilliant intuition,” so we knew that marching into a room of stakeholders announcing that we had insights into a service we had spent a limited amount of time with could seem, well, “obnoxious.”

But insights are not the same thing as impressions. As with everything in the design process, an insight means something specific, made up of a series of smaller processes.

To get to insights, we first examine the context, by interviewing a number of users and stakeholders and observing their behavior. Before we do anything else, we collect each of these tiny interaction points as data.

From there, we begin to make sense of this data: pulling out stories that illustrate a complex, nuance human experience of this service; combining and recombining those stories and data points to get at underlying themes; and slicing a particularly dense interaction to pull apart all of the dynamics at play in one interaction, in one environment, over time (what we call service slices).

Finally, we turn each of those themes and pain points into “why?”s. Only then are we prepared to start developing insights.

Even then, insights are largely guesswork. But unlike instant, superficial observations from newbie designers who just stepped foot into a massive mobile blood donation operation (us, mid-August), we are now equipped to offer meaningful and provocative observations about the service, because we are now armed with deep, 360-degree knowledge of a sizeable amount of data—much of which is data that company leadership has not had much access to, or synthesis around, before.

And that is not obnoxious at all—instead, it can be a viable value add to any service organization.

Here’s an example from our work with Central Texas-focused blood donation group We Are Blood:

A lot of people have been positively affected by blood donation … [but] you don’t know who gets your blood.

—Joseph, 19

“Joseph” is a long time donor. He loves giving blood because it makes him feel connected to a larger community. But he openly admits that he doesn’t know where his blood actually goes. And he’s not alone—several donors and phlebotomists alike made note of this.

As we worked through the data, this theme kept popping up for us, because a core tenet of We Are Blood’s mission is to inspire people to give blood. But they aren’t telling donors or the public about who actually gets the blood that donors give. 

There’s one good reason for this—HIPAA regulations place some constraints on disclosing recipients. But there are many other potential ways to tell these stories, and we found that presently, We Are Blood isn’t proactively pursuing these avenues.

To build from a provocative theme into an insight, we need three things:

a value statement,

a supporting phrase, and

a provocation.

To make a strong insight, the combination of all three of these things will stand on its own as a complete idea—one that, like it or not, agree with it or not, anyone can understand.

Here’s our full insight to the story from Joseph (and others):

Delivery on value promise is essential for successful service. But in contrast to WAB’s mission statement—to inspire new donors to give and to create a feeling of family—donors have no idea where their blood goes. This is a problem because WAB’s entire brand ID is built on this emotional payoff.

We drove this home with this image:

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 5.41.51 PM

We called this girl “Suzy.” Suzy is a stock image of a girl in a hospital. We don’t know anything else about her story. Why? Because we never have the access or the opportunity to learn it.

Instead, we do know the stories of Pat, and Gina, and Katie, and Jane, and Joseph, and dozens of others who work or show up to mobile drives. We can (and should) tell their stories in other insights…but one common theme among each of those individuals is that they don’t know “Suzy’s” story, either.

When we presented this insight to We Are Blood, leadership in the room agreed that this was an issue. They noted that they had tried various methods to tell these stories, all of which had been unsuccessful over time. We then had an invigorating discussion around things they had tried, what elements worked and didn’t, what other barriers existed to getting these stories told — and why they aren’t proactively trying to tackle this problem right now.

The next step in the design research process is to take a stab at new ideas. Some of those ideas came up in our discussion with WAB; others live on post-it notes on our wall, waiting for us to push them further.

A good insight will, above all, spark discussion and the curiosity to build new things. We’re excited to move forward into these new ideas—knowing that however provocative they may be, they will be built on a solid framework of insights, now shared by us and our client.