Synthesis - An attempt to find meaning

            Following a period of intense research we are now synthesising our findings

            Following a period of intense research we are now synthesising our findings


This week we are knee deep in post-it notes, maps, charts, figures, stats, heat maps and interviews, as we move from analysis to synthesis.

Driving or walking safely in a city like Liverpool is a complex task, conducted in a constantly changing environment.   Consequently, there are many different factors which can contribute to a collision.  As well as engineering factors such as the build and maintenance of roads and vehicles, a large percentage of road injuries are attributed to human error.  That’s errors made by drivers and pedestrians whilst they are on the roads.

Like all value driven companies, we want to create maximum impact with the resources we hold, so finding the right part of the problem to focus our attention on, finding a technology that enables a solution, and then identifying ways to deliver, test and scale our solution will be critical to the overall success of the commission, but for now, our primary objective is to create some order out of chaos and meaning out of data!


"How can we reduce adult pedestrian casualties in Liverpool"

This is the question we were asked at the start of this commission.  It's not a bad question but it is far too vague to be useful.   Without focus, drawn from deep and powerful insights, we will struggle to create a meaningful and actionable problem statement.  

Great insights into human behaviour and the environmental factors, which trigger good or bad decision-making, are what give us the highest probability of success. They are the gold we are after but sadly, compelling, profound insights are not easy to find. 

They seldom arise from a 'eureka moment' where we metaphorically leap out of the bath shouting, "I've got it!".    Striking insight gold is often the result of a time-consuming process involving; analysing, organising and painstakingly breaking down hours and hours of data into smaller, easier-to-understand parts. 

That is why we are currently knee-deep in post it notes, maps, charts, figures, stats, archive newspaper articles, heat maps and interviews; trying to generate usable insights across three broad strands.  These are the ones, which stood out as significant and unusual in our first trawl of  STATS 19 and other available data.

looking for patterns and key observations in order to uncover insights

looking for patterns and key observations in order to uncover insights

uncovering insights

Like many terms in innovation practice, there is a tendency for misunderstanding and misuse, so I thought it would be helpful to start by addressing what an insight isn't before I move on to saving what the So-Mo team consider an insight to be.

what an insight isn't

  1. An insight is not data – it is not simply information or facts – facts are useful but they are not the same as meaning or wisdom.
  2. An insight is not an observation – observations are also incredibly important but they don’t tell us why large groups of the population are behaving in what often appears to be an irrational and sub optimal way.
  3. It is not a belief or a user need.  Anytime we hear ‘I want’ or ‘I need’ we ask the question why?  Ask it enough times (five is usually sufficient) and you stand a good chance of hitting an insight.

Now lets try to express what an insight actually is....In the context of our work we would define an insight as:

  1.  A penetrating observation about human behaviour that results in us re-examining conventions or challenging the status quo.
  2. A discovery about how the environment in which a choice is made is affecting decision making.  In other words the  choice architecture of the decision making process.
  3. A deeper, human truth about why people in Liverpool aren't doing the 'right thing' – uncovering the bottleneck or barrier to a 'good choice'.  What's stopping them?

By the end of this week, we hope to have uncovered some meaningful insights across our three strands (nighttime economy, arterial routes, mobile phone).  We know that we need to stress test these with people for whom correct insights will resonate; people who can tell us if our findings feel wrong, or 'off key'.   To do this we are planning to meet with a panel of local experts made up of engineers, planners, academics & thought leaders, communities of interest, psychologists and commissioners.  

Over the next few days we will be sharing some key insights and providing information on how we arrived at these.   But for now, it's back to our walls of post-it notes, as we continue searching for meaning.

Nicola Wass