How Hidden Insights® Works

Overview of key Hidden Insights concepts and process

Hidden Insights is a facilitated group problem-solving method that is based on an empowering mind-set.  Facilitators act as “expert non-experts”.  We don’t analyse why things don’t work – we help people discover what does work now, and how, then share it.

People tell us that the first thing that makes a real difference is the set of underlying principles.  They originate in “positive deviance” and are a new way of looking at the world for many people.


These principles are as important, if not more so, than the method.

The principles:

• establish a collaborative and respectful way of working
• Enable evidence-based challenge to perceptions
• Are culturally always appropriate
• Value practice and experience over abstract knowledge


We use a pyramid to show how each level of the Hidden Insights approach builds on the next, from the bottom up, and to show the relative time and effort that needs to go into them.

The approach has three main phases, which create benefits at each stage:


Each of the three phases is broken down into three steps.

Hidden Insights® step by step

The foundation phase ensures that the programme will work.  We start from the bottom of our pyramid and work upwards.


The first step in Hidden Insights is to identify and invite everyone who might have an interest to be part of the project.  It can take time, creativity and persistence to get to the right people, the “unusual suspects”.  Stories and data are collected about the issue.  People affected by a problem start to understand how others see it, and how they might have a part to play in creating and solving it.

The early steps ensure the support of key leaders who might otherwise feel threatened by a bottom-up initiative.  The “owners’” definition of the problem might be different from leaders’ definition of the problem – for example a group of refuse collectors wanted work team stability; managers wanted to lower the accident rate, but they all realised in the end that they had a common purpose.

The key feature that makes Hidden Insights different is the discovery phase – an inclusive approach to “acting your way into a new way of thinking” that involves all key stakeholders.  Through the Hidden Insights data collection, enquiry and observation process, people uncover for themselves the existing solutions and wisdom, the Hidden Insights, which are already working.


This inclusive, shared discovery is the “secret sauce” of Hidden Insights  It builds confidence in participants, as all have strengths of their own to contribute.  This phase has created some amazing breakthroughs in dealing with really long-standing issues.

Finding the hidden successes and wisdom is only half the story – the benefits come by sharing them, and spreading them by showing how well they work.

The group helps their peers to try the better ways of doing things – acting their way into a new way of thinking.  This is sustained by measuring progress and feeding back the results – which reinforces the new behaviours.  This is the sharing and reinforcement phase.


Hidden Insights is not like benchmarking and best practice – the successful behaviours are not spread outside the original context, because they will be alien, imported practices to others.  The key is to be able to replicate the three phases of Hidden Insights, so each area finds improvements that are priorities for them and which will be understood and adopted.