The 5 Min Interview- The 30 Min Plan

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Customer interviews have an air of formality that often conjures images that feels more like an interrogation vs investigation. These interviews have a thorough script with a substantial list of questions that are asked in EVERY interview scenario. The questions may be well thought out, have no focus on the product/service, and yet still yields little understanding of the customer.

What if you could have a meaningful interview in 5 minutes with just a few questions? 

In this series, I’ll overview some thoughts on how to get clarity on your interviews and focus on what really matters.  Today, let’s talk planning.

Often, too much emphasis is put into THE QUESTIONS and not enough into THE PLAN. In doing customer discovery, we forget that the questions are an experiment in service to a hypothesis. Questions are an ingredient- it’s not the whole cake.   What happens when you have a badly framed hypothesis? Well, you are likely to do poor, unfocused experiments and get poor data.

If you want a strong 5 min interview, spend 30 min or more to ensure you have solid hypotheses. Consider the following:

Have you really focused on what you need to learn? Specifically, who has the problem, what exactly is the problem, and what do you know about the specifications for each need?

  1. Physicians want faster lab testsVS. Rural Primary Care doctors want to diagnose XYZ infectious disease in under 30 min to reduce healthcare costs by 30%.

Specificity can help you identify just one or two experimental questions. The target of 30 min and 30% are quantifiable benchmarks that help you hone in on the need. Don’t know what to quantify? Make a guess and let your questions help you refine for future interviews.

When did you last update your most risky assumptions? Are you focused on the high-risk hypotheses first?

You can’t be efficient in your interviews if you are not clear on what NEW things you need to learn. Learning requires you take the time to synthesize what you already know. If you haven’t updated your risky assumptions, you may be wasting precious interview time.

Are you limiting yourself to testing your product/service? Have you fully tested the problem? Have you considered high priority assumptions in other sections of your business canvas?

Skipping your validation of the problem can set you on the wrong path. Even if you know the overall problem, are you clear on the details for customer adoption (e.g. cost savings, time to decision, etc.)? And don’t ignore the rest of the canvas! Your business model is more than customer segments and value propositions. Innovations in your strategic operations model may catapult an innovative technology to market.

Are you setting yourself up to validate what you want? Or are you testing something that scares you to learn?

Now is not the time to play it safe. Identify the business killing assumptions and target your learning here. Get a trusted outside perspective to help you identify blind spots.

In this busy world, you may find an excellent interviewee on the bus, in a plane, at conference hotel bar (yep- real situation).  You can’t guarantee your script will be on hand. Be prepared to take advantage of their limited time by enacting and constantly updating your plan. Remember, it is not about checking things off your script list- it is about having a conversation, building relationships and learning.

CTC Sparks Series

Access more insight on SBIR, Lean Startup, Commercialization and much more in our On Demand Learning series, CTC Sparks.
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