How To Be Insightful
Unlocking the Superpower that drives Innovation
How do we advance? As individuals, families, and businesses? As societies, nations, and a species? In a world where it’s said there is nothing new under the sun, we humans are remarkably resourceful at creating new things. The key to innovation is understanding, but not just by using facts, data, and casual observations. Progress demands the profound and useful understanding of a person or a thing, a situation or an issue. And profound and useful understanding that truly effects change is that most elusive of phenomena: insight.
How To Be Insightful provides a novel and deeply practical framework that anyone can use to generate more powerful and impactful insights from the increasing volumes of data we all face every day, whatever we do. The framework – the STEP Prism of Insight – has been developed through decades of both practice and training, and the book includes many exercises designed to help strengthen and develop readers’ insight muscles. The book explains the history, psychology, and neuroscience of insight and includes snapshots of insight from international experts in many different fields – psychology and neuroscience, music and acting, forensic science and market research.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements and inspirations
1 What is insight?
Interview: Jem Fawcus, Firefish
2 The history and psychology of insight
Interview: Stephen Johns, Royal College of Music
3 The neuroscience of insight
Interview: Baroness Susan Greenfield
4 How To Be Insightful
Interview: the actors Peter Firth and Alexandra McKibbin
5 Sweat – the research phase
Interview: Eric Bartels, Inner Why
6 Timeout – the thinking phase
Interview: Professor Angela Gallop, Strathclyde University
7 Eureka – the enlightenment phase
Interview: Ricard Sapiro, Agência de Branding, São Paulo
8 Prove – the testing phase
Interview: Dr Peter Collett, University of Oxford
9 How to be more insightful
Where to find out more
Sam Knowles is a data storyteller with 30 years’ experience helping businesses communicate with more impact. A classicist with a psychology doctorate, he helps organizations to talk "Human". He’s the author of Narrative by Numbers (2018) from Routledge.
"Many books which claim to be about generating insight are really about managing evidence. This book puts the individual in insight and helps the reader understand how insight can be personally created."
Jane Frost, CBE, Chief Executive Officer, The Market Research Society
"Insight is the lifeblood of great marketing. But the really disruptive insights that springboard into great creative and commercial success can be frustratingly elusive. Sam has plotted a path to help us all to uncover those big insights that will power breakthrough thinking."
Mark Evans, Managing Director, Marketing & Digital, Direct Line Group
"In the insights business, data or casual observations often masquerade as insights. But genuine, data-driven insights that help shape decisions about the future are much rarer. The model at the heart of Sam's book will help reverse this imbalance in insightful thinking."
Matt Painter, Managing Director, Corporate Reputation, Ipsos MORI
"When an idea is rooted in true insights, it will always be more effective and deliver a better result. Sam Knowles' framework and model for generating these kind of insights more reliably is something I would urge people to take a look at, whatever kind creative or communications challenge you may be faced with."
Andy Porteous, Chief Strategy Officer, Mavens of London
"Sam is that all too rare creature – a numbers guy who communicates in plain English. As well as a storyteller, he is a compelling writer and his latest book will not only be of immense practical use for those looking to enhance the quality and frequency of insights. It's also quite fascinating."
Karsten Shaw, Director of Analytics, Populus
"Combining his experience in academic research and brand marketing, Dr Sam Knowles believes everyone has the power to be insightful. How To Be Insightful inspires readers to unlock their curiosity and unleash their insight potential, to reap the benefits of the data-led age."
Annalise Coady, President, EMEA, W2O Group
"Insight is one of the fundamental particles of the craft of successful marketing. Sam takes his typical forensic approach to this topic and creates a practical way of applying his wisdom in the workplace – great stuff!"
Sean Gogarty, Former Global Divisional CEO, Unilever; founder of Verummundi
"Anyone who knows Sam will not be surprised that he has written a book to help understand understanding. From Greek philosophy to modern neuroscience, he explores the physics and metaphysics of eureka moments. At the heart of every insight is a curious mind, and this timely and important book sprang from a very curious mind indeed."
Thomas Stoeckle, Adjunct Professor, University of Florida
"A clear and practical guide that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ – providing fresh and informative background on the history and science of insight; but most importantly hands-on tips and techniques, explained through real-world examples, for how to be insightful."
Richard Cox, Chairman, Mullen Lowe Salt
"In today’s data-rich-insight-poor world, Sam Knowles shines an insightful light on the challenge of exactly how to generate insight; an easy read and eminently usable."
Andrew Challier, Chief Client Officer, Ebiquity
"Insight is at the heart of human understanding - and Sam gives us a practical guide on how to understand the things humans often can’t say, don’t say, or won’t say."
Karnvir Mundrey, Host, The Future of Branded Content & PR podcast
"Sam has a real knack of being able to distinguish insights that are blindingly compelling from those which are just genuinely interesting. How To Be insightful is a real treat, both practically and historically, in helping us identify how being more intuitive in the way we examine the world can help us develop better ideas for our clients and their brands."
Ian Jenkins, Global Head of Strategy, Insight & Intelligence, Intrinsic Insight
"In a world where all your competitors have access to much of the same data and information, competitive advantage relies on a superior ability to search, identify, and use insights to establish a deeper meaning and engagement for your brand and business. Sam’s brilliant new book is both inspiring and practical in giving you a critical edge."
Simon Thong, Founder Director, Revel