A talk on interviewing

I gave a talk yesterday entitled Introduction to Customer Interviews, as part of Start Up Zone’s nascent accelerator program. It was the culmination of an all too lengthy self study into qualitative research in general and later some review on interview methods.

The possibilities being so broad, it’s difficult to talk about conducting interviews in a short period of time without a great deal of focus. The same could be said for most generalized design workshops, particularly design thinking, which I have complained about in the past. I had been floundering on previous attempts when meeting with people who reached out for some help and appreciated this opportunity to write some thoughts down on paper.

I made a critical mistake. Who was actually going to be attending the talk wasn’t decided until the last minute, and like so many of the companies in the StartUp Zone there was a wide range of interests and capabilities. Not knowing who was in the audience, the talk I designed was suited for my idealized group, who thus far I have yet to meet. I always have the wrong assumption that everyone finds design and design research as interesting as I do. To compensate, I decided at the last minute to improvise, and after the opening 15 minutes that I hoped would give some context, I opened the floor to questions. This was moderately successful in giving them control over their learning, but not so successful in imparting the knowledge I think we all need before starting a research activity.

An interesting fact, a fact that still confounds me, is how few people talk to customers/users before embarking on the long road to building a product or business. I’m not sure where this seeming fear of human contact comes from. It not a question of right or wrong (what do I know) but something completely different from my most recent experience.

After all this study, I’m not sure what I will use this fresher perspective for – I still question why I continue to read and take such an interest in design research at all. I see no application for these skills locally, and I have little interest at present in becoming some kind of full time “product coach.” Some say knowledge without action is useless, but for now I am content to continue reading about research for fun.

Next week is a workshop on Affinity Diagrams/Affinity Walls/Thematic analysis.