When I conduct interviews with potential customers I like to do it in two rounds.
The first round is an online questionaire that establishes the base and provides context for the interview. Customers agree to filling it out and are usually very good at it. What it does is that it helps me understand them and where they are coming from a little bit more before the actual interview, so we can make the most of our time together.
When I then sit with them for the interview itself, we don’t have to waste time establishing the baseline. We can go directly into talking about the stuff that matters to the customer, and I can use the info from the questionaire as background and context and thus get the best possible outcome of the interview.
It always give the best results.
There is no way around it: The greatest learning opportunity is when things don’t go according to plan. When you envisioned X and Y or Z happens, and you have very little idea about why that is.
When that happens – and it will happen – it is an open invitation to learn. It is an invitation to go back, investigate and walk through everything you have done in order to try and find the spot(s), where you missed something important.
It is by no means certain that you will be able to find it at the first time of asking. But if you adapt an experimental approach and try to adjust here and there in a controlled way, chances are that you will finally understand what happened, and what you could have done and should be doing forward to make it right. And voilá; you will actually have learned something.
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.
The more you think you know about something, the more you should push yourself to look under the hood.
There is always something there that annoys your view of the problem. Something that doesn’t fit. But that something adds valuable perspective to what you’re working on, and more often than not it can be the true differentiator for your success.
I have always found that even though I have worked within a particular sector a number of times before and think I am pretty well covered, there is always valuable insight under the hood as soon as I curiously and unbiased start looking. My bet is that you will experience the same.