How To Be Insightful

How To Be Insightful: Unlocking the Superpower that Drives Innovation is a book written by master data storyteller Sam Knowles and published in May 2020 by Routledge. How To Be Insightful is the sequel to Sam’s critically-acclaimed 2018 book Narrative by Numbers: How to Tell Powerful & Purposeful Stories with Data, also from Routledge. Narrative by Numbers was shortlisted for the Business Book of the Year in 2019.

How to be Insightful Book Cover

So just what is insight anyway?

Sam defines insight as “a profound and useful understanding – of a person, a thing, a situation, or an issue – that truly effects change”. An insight is a nugget of data-driven, evidence-based certainty. Insights help us to understand and think about things differently, more completely, more clearly.

In business and in life more generally, insights help to answer the more meaningful “So what?” questions, leading to the “Now what?”. They take us from “What does this mean?” to “What should we do as a result?”

Model: the STEP Prism of Insight

At the heart of How To Be Insightful is a dynamic model of insightful thinking – the STEP Prism of Insight. Sam developed the model, inspired by two, 20th century writers. The first is Graham Wallas, one of the founders and first teachers at the London School of Economics, and his 1926 book The Art of Thought. The second is original Madison Avenue “madman”, James Webb Young, and his 1940 pamphlet, A Technique for Producing Ideas.

There are four steps to insight in Sam’s model: Sweat, Timeout, Eureka, and Prove.

is the research phase

is the thinking phase

is the enlightenment phase

is the testing phase


Sam Knowles is a well-established and sought-after trainer, delivering courses in data storytelling, insightful thinking, and innovation. He regularly gives insight and innovation training directly to many different commercial and not-for-profit organisations. These include media, advertising, and market research businesses, as well as insight, innovation, and planning teams in private, public, and third-sector bodies. Sam also provides insight training via the Market Research Society and the Account Planning Group.

Market Research Society
Account Planning Group

For anyone who’s attended Sam’s insight training courses in the past – and those who are booked on training courses in the future – we’re happy to provide materials for download, including the new “How To Be Insightful” workbook. All we ask is that you give us a little bit of information about yourself. Please complete the Enquiry form.


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      How To Be Insightful’s author, Sam Knowles, is an accomplished and in-demand keynote speaker. At conferences on communications and marketing, innovation and insight, data and analytics. To inspire teams to develop more impactful insights that move others to action. And to change how organisations cope with and make sense of the information that threatens to overwhelm them.

      Sam is a member of the Professional Speaking Association. He is also a graduate of the Brighton Comedy Course’s stand-up comedy course and the Confidence Box’s “Drama School in Five Weeks”.

      PSA - Professional Speaking Association

      To enquire about booking Sam to inspire your team, conference, or event, complete this form.

      Shop: buy the books

      How To Be Insightful
      How do we advance? As individuals, families, and businesses? As societies, nations, and as a species? In a world where there is nothing new under the sun, we humans are remarkably resourceful at creating new things – for good and for ill. From the iPhone to Brexit, from Repeal the Eighth to smart toilets, from Skolstrejk för klimatet to the veggie burgers that ‘bleed’ beetroot juice. Innovation truly is a universal human superpower.

      How to be Insightful Book Cover

      If we stop and think about how we think for just a little time – and then apply a simple and structured framework – we make it much more likely we will solve challenging insight problems. How To Be Insightful tells the story of insight, from the earliest attempts to define it in Greek philosophy and on to psychology and most recently neuroscience. And it provides a simple, practical model that makes solving insight problems very much more likely.

      Routledge published How to Be Insightful: Unlocking the Superpower that Drives Innovation in May 2020. To buy the book, click on either button below to visit Amazon or Routledge. And if you want a code for a 20% discount with Routledge, please send us an email.

      Narrative by Numbers
      As jobs in the knowledge economy become increasingly similar, there are two skills that everyone needs if they’re going to thrive. These are the ability to interrogate and make sense of data, and the ability to use insights extracted from data to persuade others to act. There’s a new equation in business:

      Analytics + Storytelling = Influence.

      There are some simple and effective rules of data-driven storytelling that help everyone to tell more compelling, evidence-based stories, whoever they need to convince. Narrative by Numbers by Sam Knowles shows you how.

      Routledge published Narrative by Numbers: How to Tell Powerful & Purposeful Stories with Data in April 2018. To buy the book, click on either button below to visit Amazon or Routledge.

      Narrative by Numbers - Sam Knowles
      Sam Knowles - Author, Speaker

      Sam KnowlesAuthor of How To Be Insightful (2020) and Narrative by Numbers (2018)

      Meet the author

      Sam Knowles is the Founder & MD of data storytelling consultancy Insight Agents. He has spent more than 30 years helping businesses, charities, and third-sector bodies communicate better. His purpose is to help all kinds of organisations sound like people and talk Human. He divides his time between consultancy and writing, training and speaking..

      Originally a classicist, Sam holds a doctorate in psychology, the source of his understanding of human motivation and his passion for telling data-driven, insight-rich stories. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the Market Research Society, and the Professional Speaking Association. A sought-after speaker, coach, and podcaster, Sam is the co-founder and co-host of the Small Data Forum. The podcast takes a light-hearted look at the uses and abuses of data big and small in business, politics, and public life.

      How To Be Insightful is Sam’s second business book, a very definite sequel to Narrative by Numbers which was published in 2018 by Routledge to critical acclaim. He is currently writing Kicking the Bucket List: 51 Things in my 51st Year, which lies somewhere between a motivational self-help book and a memoir.