Toolkit: Empathize and Define | Via DTActionLab

This content was created by the DTAction Lab team.

Guidelines for Interviewing

These guidelines will help you set the tone for the interview and get the most out of it.

1. You may bring a few prepared questions, but the most important thing is to maintain a connection with the interviewee and show that you are listening to what they are saying (ie, look at them, not just at your notes). Also, you should always follow up on interesting answers, instead of mechanically moving through a list of questions.

2. Take notes or record the interview. Capture on paper the person’s own words whenever possible, instead of rephrasing during the interview. If you record the audio of the interview (with permission), you will need to extract quotes from the recording later.

3. Start the interview by introducing yourself and the project you are working on, and start with lighter, more general questions to establish a connection and put the interviewee at ease

4. Listening is as important as talking (your interviewee should talk about 75% of the time). Also, showing that you are really interested in what the other person has to say goes a long way. Think of the interview as aconversation.

5. Ask open-ended, non-leading questions: “What do you think about that school?” is a better question than “Don’t you think that school is great?” The former doesn’t imply there is a right answer.

6. Be curious and ask “why?” often, even when you think you know the answer. Many answers will surprise you. Always follow up on answers that sound interesting, or whenever the interviewee says “I think…” A good way of doing this, in addition to asking “Why?” is to say “Tell me more about that.”

7. Ask for stories about concrete events. Instead of asking people how do they “usually” do things or how do they “usually” feel, ask them about the last time they did something, or the most memorable moment (in fact, do NOT use “usually” at all).

8. Don’t be afraid of silence. Resist the need to ask another question when there is a pause. The interviewee might reflect on what he/she has just said and say something deeper.

*Bonus points* If you have access to observing someone during an event that is relevant to the challenge (for instance, writing a resume, looking for jobs on the internet, etc.) and can talk to them while observing them in action, that would be extremely valuable to get insights about the challenge from the point of view of that person.

More resources:

II. Guidelines for the Empathy Map

Using the Empathy Map framework you will process what happened in the interview, make inferences about the thoughts and feelings of the person based on what they said, and connect the dots to identify a need or problem he/she has related to the challenge.

We suggest that you spend about 20 to 30 min creating the empathy map (longer if you need to transcribe an audio recording of the interview).

Go through the sections of the empathy map in this order:

SAY section. Write down here all the quotes from the interview that catch your attention as you review your notes. Be as literal as possible (as opposed to rephrasing what they said in your own words).

DO section (optional). If you observed the person in action, describe here behaviors you saw. You can also combine interview and observation, by asking the person to walk you through what they are doing. **Note that you may not have anything in this section if you did not have the chance to do observations**

THINK and FEEL sections. Here is where you will make inferences (educated guesses) about the meaning of what the person said. What if you are wrong? You may very well be, but if you don’t take a leap and make inferences, you won’t get at deep unexpected needs. At later stages in the process you will get more data that will allow you to refine your understanding and definition of the problem.

III. Guidelines for the Problem Statement

With the problem statement, you encapsulate concrete problems related to the challenge for the person you interviewed. In the next stage (IDEATE – next week), you will creatively solve them.

Since the person you are designing for might not articulate any needs/problems related to the challenge (these would be implicit needs), it’s your job to make educated guesses about those needs, based on the stories and data you gathered in the interview.

Write Problem Statements in this form:

STAKEHOLDER needs a way to ________(PROBLEM/NEED)____ Because ____(INSIGHT)_____

STAKEHOLDER: Here you should describe the person you are designing for (one you interviewed). Use at least 5 adjectives to describe that person. Make sure you add enough information to paint a picture of the person to someone who has not met him/her (“A detailed-oriented, reliable, degree-holding accountant, who is curious and able to work in teams, as well as collaborative and creative”).

PROBLEM/NEED: Use VERBS instead of NOUNS to define the problem/need. Nouns are often already solutions: as an example, contrast “Joe needs a better pencil” with “Joe needs a better way to write” or “Joe needs a better way to capture data.” In the first case the solution is already implied in the problem statement, so there is only opportunity for incremental innovation. In the latter frames, there is an opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that may go beyond an improved pencil.

INSIGHT: Here you provide a justification for the need you stated. The insight often comes from connecting the dots between different elements on the empathy map.

In order to get a good Problem Statement, craft more than one and then select one that is not too narrow (eg, Joe needs to get a job as accountant) nor too broad (Joe needs a way to improve his career) to continue the process.

Here is a template that contains and Empathy Map and Problem Statement:

1. PDF (Slideshare):

2. Prezi:

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