Interview for Innovation

To innovate, you must observe and talk to the people for whom you are designing your solution. Observe them in the place that they will using your solution and hear from them in their own words. The goal of an Interview is to really understand their experiences, needs, and desires. Here are few tips for interviewing for innovation (inspired from Design Kit):

Go to where they will be using your solution – this could be their office, in the field, home or in line at the coffee shop. You can learn so much about a person’s mindset, behavior, and lifestyle by talking with them where they use your solution. Take notes on ambient light, sounds and other elements that affect the experience. 

No More Than Three –  team members should attend any single interview so as to not overwhelm the interviewee or crowd the location. And each team member should have a clear role – interviewer, note-taker, and photographer.

The Five Whys – Start by asking a pretty broad question about your Interview participant’s habits or behaviors then ask “why” to their response five times in a row. Pay special attention to moments when it feels like you’ve moved a level deeper into understanding why the person does what she does. Keep in mind that you might not get to the core stuff (root cause) until the fourth or fifth “Why.”

Body Language – keep good eye contact, nod and smile to communicate that you are listening to them and they have your full attention. You may be tempted to fill a moment of silence with a personal anecdote. But keep focused on the person you’re interviewing—make them the center of attention. Fill the gap with taking notes. Taking notes is another physical cue to the person that you’re listening and appreciate what they say.

There’s no better way to understand the hopes, desires, and aspirations of those you’re designing for than by talking with them directly. It can inspire and inform your innovations.