The magic of interviewing people
Interviewing people might be the most fascinating part of the whole design research process.
Disclaimer: This is not a ‘how to’ guide, there are already many great articles about that. This is just a personal examination of my own feelings about the interview process.
First of all, interviewing people is all about having a glimpse about people’s motivations and thoughts. Interviews provide you, as the interviewer, a chance to abandon your own reality and realise that the way you view the world is not the absolute truth. It’s amazing to be challenged and exposed to many different perspectives.
There’s a kind of magic that happens during an interview.
When people enter into an interview mindset as an interviewee they suddenly open themselves in a way that’s different than a normal conversation. For a personal project I interviewed a few people I knew beforehand (I know, I know) and the contrast was incredible, people are more prone to talk about their issues and put themselves in a vulnerable position willingly in an interview context than in a casual chat. There’s always the possibility of resistance but even the most closed off person will tell you more about something if the exchange is framed as an interview.
The second magical thing that happens during an interview is when people feel comfortable enough to share a particular difficult or emotional experience. There’s a pretty strong bond that’s created there and you as a researcher should feel honored that the person trusts you enough to open themselves like that.
To paraphrase, with this trust comes great responsibility. As a researcher when you begin an interview process you have to make sure that you deserve people’s trust and you have to hold yourself to the maximum ethical standards. IDEO has an amazing resource called ‘The little book of design research ethics’ that’s full of insights in a clear and direct prose with lots of examples and scenarios to reflect upon.
It’s funny because many times before and after the interview people comment, with a hint of guilt, on how they fell that what they shared is just meaningless information, be it how they use a product or what they think about an industry. What they don’t realise is that what they’ve said is not as important as what they’ve told you, which is much more than just words. As a researcher, what people say is but a window into who they are, and if you do things right you’ll learn a lot about another person and that knowledge can be used not only to create better products or services but also for personal enrichment.
In the end, I guess that what I’m getting at is that understanding people means understanding that your worldview is not the only one, and by admiting the existence of multiple realities, your world also becomes about mutliple posibilities.