How to spot a true, transformative insight 

Chris Kocek, the founder of Gallant Branding, offers a handy mnemonic for recognising when you've struck strategic gold

Insights are a popular topic these days. That’s because insights are powerful. They go deeper than the surface level aphorisms and pop culture wisdom that we see on a daily basis. A real insight has stopping power, with the potential to disrupt meetings and the marketplace and transform your brand into a category leader.

So how do you know if you have a genuine insight?

For starters, a real insight isn’t just a data point. And it’s not an observation. Or a simple human truth. An insight is a carefully woven constellation of multiple data points, human truths, observations and cultural tensions, connected together in such a way that you see things with a fresh set of eyes, resulting in a new product design, a new business model, or an innovative marketing campaign that gives your brand a long term competitive advantage.

As much as I hate to boil it down to a simple checklist of characteristics, I’ve discovered through countless workshops that the following checklist can help you and your team stress test your ideas to see if what you have is an authentic insight.

To make the checklist easy to remember, let’s use the acronym I.N.S.I.G.H.T.

I  = Inspires Action 

At the heart of a compelling insight is the ability to inspire action in others. If, after you’ve shared your carefully articulated insight, there’s a profound silence, or someone says, ‘That’s interesting,’ or you hear the sound of people scribbling down new headlines, then you’ve probably hit on something pretty powerful.

N = Not Obvious 

An insight has to reframe the problem or the solution in a unique way. If all you’ve got is a standard human truth (or SHT to keep it short), then you need to keep digging. However, if you’ve got some customer stories that reframe that SHT into something new and unusual, then you might be onto something. Here’s an example: Cats, not dogs, are man’s best friend. Well now, that’s new. What makes you say that? Tell me more.

S = Simple to Explain 

If you’ve ever played the game ‘telephone’, you know that the longer the sentence, the more mangled it will get as it travels from one person to the next. So keep your insight to 10 words or fewer.

I = Includes Key Data, Observations, or Trends 

These are critical for credibility. If you have an insight statement that’s not backed up by anything, the skeptics in the room will cut your insight down to size. So make sure you have your facts lined up and ready to go.

G = Gives your brand a clear advantage 

There are plenty of insights that are interesting, but if you’re not able to connect the insight back to your brand’s compelling value proposition, then you may need to start building a new insight.

H = Human Truth 

A human truth by itself is NOT an insight, but an insight that doesn’t connect to a human truth isn’t going to last long in the marketplace. For an insight to resonate with people and inspire action, especially on a global scale, it must tap into something that’s fundamentally true about the human experience.

T = Taps into a cultural tension 

An insight doesn’t always need to tap into a cultural tension, but a cultural tension can definitely help. That’s because tension has a way of pulling us in, tantalising us with conflict so that we can’t look away. Most of the time, when you’re dealing with a tension between polar opposites, there’s usually an insight hiding somewhere in the middle.

Now then, if you can honestly check 70% or more of the boxes on that list, then go ahead and pop the cork on that champagne bottle, because you probably have an authentic, hot-off-the-press insight. Congratulations! 

 I know that’s a lot of boxes to check, but maybe that’s why true insights are so rare.

At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that even if you don’t end up with an actual insight, the process of trying to build an insight will almost certainly get you to a much more creative, innovative place, which is a lot better than where you started.

Chris Kocek is the CEO of Gallant Branding and author of Any Insights Yet? Connect the dots. Create new categories. Transform your business.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit to learn more.