Interview Techniques/Tools

So over the last couple of weeks, Travis has shared with us some techniques and activities to run during group workshops and one to one interviews to help us get people talking and get the best insights out of people, for use further down the line. What I’m gonna do here is just list them, give a little one liner about them and then post a one liner thought in italics.

Multiple Interviewers
Use a person who talks to the interviewee, asks the questions and guides them; have another recording it, timestamping quotes and taking down interesing lines; have a third writing ideas that come off their interview and key factors and insights.

This is great, it’s useful to really draw every last piece of information out of a short time frame – especially useful if you’re working for a company that wants you to get a lot of info from a very short time span…where it falls down in our context is getting three people together with an interviewee to do the interview and moreover in a context that’s not intimidating to them, having a 3:1 ratio seems quite scary; though if we had one way glass where one could stand one side and one on the other, it would alleviate this problem at least.

Empathy Maps
Guide the person through one as an exercise, focusing on a journey. Pains gains, sees smells, things, hears – insights.

Now I’m not a massive fan because they’re quite time consuming post interview and you never really get any info from people that specifically fits into hears and smells etc. mostly just their thoughts so these become a little unbalanced.


Card sorting
Give them a subject headers related to the subject area

  • get them to sort their top 5 and rank them
  • dig deeper as to why they chose thems etc.

This is a cool idea that can be really useful moreso for ideation phase, maybe? Or the subject headers could be buzz words related to the focal theme that they sort so we see what they prioritise under that theme?


Image interviews
Print images related to your topic off, hang them up on a wall and get interviewees to choose their favourite and get them to talk about why, what it makes them feel etc.

I reckon you could use this really well if you had a little psychology training and used some provocative images around your subject header – that way you can both physically drill them and analytically.


Journey mapping
on a wall with post-its

Ask them to tell you about a journey they’ve made recently, talking about how they felt at different points in the journey, ask them to be as detailed as possible

Guiding someone through a journey and having them help you place, on a timeline on a wall where certain things happened, and also write with you the key pointers on post it notes will help get the issues/feelings of the interviewee across most.


Empathy probe
A pre-mapped graph following a walked journey with 5-7 stages, on the y axis plot -5  –  5 on a scale of bored to excited; at each stage ask them where their emotions would be if this were a typical journey

Useful for: cross-referencing where people are most in need of something. This is more for emotional data, I guess. The upside to having an arbitrary journey is that it helps draw parallels between what, fundamentally, will be very different journeys. The downside of course is that you don’t get the specifics. Maybe then it’s useful to use this in conjunction with the above journey map.


Profile capture sheets
stereo types of people – in a detailed way

  • Give the profile an archetypal name
    • Before – create assumptions capture sheets
    • After – create a new one to see what actually came off in interview

I think the key use for this is selecting a target audience to make the biggest impact on a specific group. It also can help you work out where points of contention may be between this target group and other stakeholder profiles – creating insights as to issues that will need to be alleviated. Furthermore it may provide insight as to what one group can do for another so you can create a facilitation service where people help each other out – social innovations are as much on the rise as physical ones. 


Timestamp Important Quotes
Particularly useful for long interviews…though how you’d do this quickly and effecgtively as one interviewer, I’m not too sure; maybe there’s something in that for an interview recording app?


Value Propositions
Create a profile: customer pains, customer gains and customer jobs (the jobs that the service you’re probing does for the customer)

When ideating counter the pains and gains in a value proposition so you create ideas with the greatest value to the customer!

This is in essence the answer to the profile capture sheets, except more refined, with specific things needing to be targeted, that are known. What works about this is that you work out general reactions to customer issues and desires that you can focus your ideation around; as such it works as an important first point of convergence – maybe even before ideation (or alternately you can ideate around your gathered insights then sort your ideas into the pains and gains etc., to see how what you already think of, outside of the customer profile, does to fix issues a customer may have.


Five Whys
Keep drilling their answers with why until you reach the base of the problem, it may be that what you set out to do is so far from the problem but that doesn’t matter because this could generate the greatest value for the customer

This is one of my favourite techniques, simply because it gets customer situations to their simplest and broadest terms, giving us key insights from which to create platforms to springboard ideation from.


Error Analysis
Get people to find every small thing that’s wrong with a given idea/existing concept. This is useful in a prototyping phase but also useful for analysing what’s wrong with the status quo.

Perhaps the best til last…everyone loves playing devil’s advocate, right? What’s great about this is that you create more problems to solve, with the intricacies of your idea; the result of which is an exponentially increasingly watertight solution to an as before unrecognised customer issue. However this really only works if you’re dealing with a prototype or an existing idea. Furthermore, you may find so many flaws with it you’ll be disheartened, or ruin what was good about it in the first place. Perhaps then it’d be important to take this one with a pinch of salt?

So that’s me thoughts on various techniques.



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