26 May 2021 Tenaka

The indepth interview

Understand your stakeholders better with this design thinking qualitative research method

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway

A design thinking research method to help you understand people

An indepth interview (also called an IDI) is a one-on-one interview with a respondent, typically an hour long, that aims to dig deeper into the respondent’s behaviour, needs and motivations around a certain topic, through open conversation.

Qualitative research for quality data

When you want to give someone a chance to talk about themselves without interruption or influence from a group, or if the subject matter may be considered sensitive or personal, an indepth interview is the way to go.

It’s perfect for when you want quality insights from your data and know that you have the time (and budget) to look thoroughly at the data you get out of the research. This is where understanding motivations and needs beyond the functional and into the social and emotional really begins to happen.

Finding the right solutions by really listening

A one-on-one conversation is a great opportunity to really listen and learn. By not accepting the surface answer, by probing and digging, we can go with a respondent on a journey of discovery that often surprises us – and sometimes the respondent, too. By learning more deeply about the people we are building solutions for, we set ourselves on the right trajectory for coming up with successful solutions.

Things to consider when doing an indepth interview

  • Allow the silence. Curb your urge to fill silences with your own anecdotes that show you sympathise. The empty space is the perfect opportunity to let the respondent take you a little further into their world.
  • Balance friendliness and empathy with reserve. Make the respondent feel comfortable by warming them up and making a human connection; but keep a respectful distance that allows them to explore the topic, with your guidance.
  • Record the interview. An interviewer should have their full attention on the respondent and guiding the conversation to get the best out of it, not spend the hour scribbling. (See our Transcribing method.)
  • Encourage stories. A story reveals a mine of information about someone: their perspectives, what excites them, what leaves them cold, what drives them into action. Sculpt your interview to facilitate storytelling and you will get rich data.
  • Don’t ask someone what they want; they don’t know. Craft your interview carefully to illicit your respondent’s thought patterns, behaviours, motivations and needs. Understand these and you will be able to start forming an idea of what people want.
  • Don’t lead your witness. Your aim is to get honest data, untainted by your influence, so make sure your questions are balanced and don’t lead the respondent to either side. For example, if you want to find out how they feel about this tea, don’t ask, “So, how amazing do you think this tea is?”

Hi there. We’ve marked in italics any words that might be unfamiliar to you and thrown them into a glossary at the bottom.

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