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4 Design Principles to Help You Build More Actionable Insights

Ingvald Smith-Kielland discusses four design principles that can be used to build more actionable insights in the last article in our Big Ideas series.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas Series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Ingvald Smith-Kielland will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 12-14 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX NA. Click here to learn more.

As researchers, one of our fundamental goals is to provide the fuel for new ideas and to help businesses innovate by developing meaningful, and more importantly, actionable insights. Therefore, it is imperative for these insights to be robust and clear enough to withstand wider distribution without being diluted or misrepresented.  

Yet, too often, these critical insights are presented in long, tedious PowerPoints, with the essence buried in the text and lacking the succinctness, actionability and inspirational quality necessary for a successful adoption across departments and disciplines.

What can we learn from design to help better bridge the gap between insights and creation?

I would like to share 4 ways we have successfully leveraged design principles to build more actionable insights. I will go through these and give some additional examples in Pull’s upcoming session at IIeX in Atlanta.

1. Adopt a Collaborative and Multi-Disciplinary Mindset:

Include stakeholders from different disciplines from the start. Involving colleagues from multiple areas of expertise will help them better understand the process, build empathy for the end user and gather the necessary anecdotes to share the learnings in a more authentic way. More importantly, they will become powerful internal advocates of a user-centered approach.

2. Use Reframe Statements to Articulate Insights:

While synthesizing the research and developing recommendations, it can be challenging to strike the right balance between succinctness and depth. The reframe statement is a simple yet powerful framework that can add memorability, authority, and conciseness to the narrative.


The first part not only helps articulate the initial hypothesis and context but also anchors and converges on the collective starting point of the research. The second part, the “AHA”, is then followed by a strong point of view that will be the foundation for subsequent recommendations.

Adding an illustration or icon symbolizing the reframe will further increase the overall stickiness of the statement.

3. Embrace Visualization to Build Empathy:

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, is not necessarily an idiom that comes to mind when describing the typical research report. In final presentations, why not replace some of the text with media more suitable for storytelling? Combining stills and videos from the field, incorporating iconography and infographics as well as building an immersive multi-sensory environment will bring the subject matter and context to life.

One of the reasons I am looking forward to attending Ari Popper’s “Is there room for Science fiction prototyping in the research industry?” in Atlanta is to further explore how emerging technology can help empathy building and increase the impact of our work.

4. Brainstorm What-If’s to Help Link Findings to Opportunities:

Developing final recommendations can be challenging for researchers and strategists: going too high level and abstract can lead to a perception of being too academic and detached from the business realities, while the opposite approach can become a solution trap where the output is a series of unresolved ideas.

Use the Reframe Statements as a springboard to brainstorm What If statements with your multi-disciplinary team. This pairing helps to narrow the gap from insight to opportunity, hinting at solutions without being prescriptive. You will then have an output that sets the team up nicely up for success and further co-creation.

I am excited to go into more detail on some of these principles and tools on June 13th.  In the meantime, if you have time, I recommend reading “The Little Black Book of Innovation” by Scott Anthony, as it covers innovation in a discipline-agnostic and holistic way, while also describing some of the design thinking principles and best practices we like to follow.

Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

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Ingvald Smith Kielland