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Strategic Insights

Insights tell us about what really matters to people and how they see the world. Forming insights is a key step on the path to designing better. 

Insights help you understand someone’s worldview, including their preferences, behaviours, needs and opinions. Forming insights means making the leap between what we can observe, and the “why” behind those observations—usually pointing to an underlying motivation or value. An insight tells us more about a problem and suggests many ways a problem might be solved.

Insights help spark ideas for generating solutions. You know you’ve arrived at a good insight when it feels unexpected and a bit profound. In design, insights are what help us arrive at new solutions to the stubborn problem we’ve been trying repeatedly to tackle without success. 

How do we create Insights?

Gather Qualitative Data Using Design Research

Design research provides the practical underpinnings of human-centred design. It is research conducted to understand people’s experiences in order to design—or redesign— services, programs or products for those people. We use the methods of design itself— such as behavioural observation and iterative prototyping—to gather and synthesize information. Then we reason abductively—that is, like Sherlock Holmes—looking for the simplest, most likely explanations for our observations. Design research is especially well-suited to developing clarity in complex or changing situations with many and varied stakeholders. It is the foundation of user experience design, service design, community engagement, and foresight. Design research is how we understand people’s needs.

Analyse Data Using Grounded Theory

The types of information we gather determine the types of questions we can answer. Quantitative information—data we can measure or count—can help us work out who is affected by a situation, and where, and when, and how often. But to uncover what’s happening and investigate why it’s happening, we need to ask open-ended questions and collect qualitative information—descriptive data that’s harder to “sum up.” We need to gather responses without prejudice, then sift and compare them to discover patterns, trends, and possibilities. This is research for discovery and insight. 

One of our most fruitful approaches to qualitative data analysis is grounded theory, so-called because it produces a theory grounded in the data. This is an inductive research method developed for the social sciences by Glaser and Strauss in the 1960s. Instead of predetermining the topics of interest, we watch the key topics emerge from the observations and organize the observations around those topics to surface apparent patterns or categories. Grounded theory is an exploratory, descriptive method for developing hypotheses about what’s going on. When it is important to measure and locate the impact of the situation, we would complement grounded theory with quantitative follow-up research. Grounded theory is how we turn interviews, observations, and interactions into insights. 

Lead Contact

Rachel Hofstetter Vice President & General Manager Overlap Associates Canada


Rachel Hofstetter, is a strong leader with exceptional management, business and people skills. She’s a natural coach who inspires people to work collaboratively toward new outcomes, while developing organizational cultures that support continuous learning and innovation. Get to know Rachel, see some of her work and engage with her ideas here.


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