Tuesday, September 3, 2013

what's surprising about problem interviews

A problem interview is one in which you try to validate that people have the problem you're trying to solve. It's also an opportunity to discover new problems, or to find out that people's priorities are different from what you expected.

I'm currently in the problem discovery phase for an innovation event in Barcelona. My interviews are revealing that people's real problems are fairly different from what I expected. This is great, because if I hadn't done this exploration, I would have planned a program which would have been inappropriate for many of the attendees.

As I'm quite new in my role, I suspect that many of my more senior colleagues are able to plan their sessions without this kind of problem validation. They probably know the needs of the attendees very well. But I don't, and more importantly, I know I don't. In the words of poet Charles Wright, "you don't know what you don't know."

The wonderful thing is that every time I interview someone, they have ideas, needs and insights that I couldn't or wouldn't have thought of. In this way, we're co-creating the event, building on the ideas and needs of many. I don't know what the result will be, but my sense is that we've already come further, and along different paths, than I would have if I'd set out on my own.

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