The 5 Min Interview- The Power of “Why?”

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If you haven’t read the first post in this series, The 5 Min Interview- the 30 min plan, go back and check it out.

Okay- so now you have a plan or, importantly, you have updated your plans.  How can you get the most learning in just 5 min? This time, we focus on the power of your questions.

Most of us are designing questions with the answer in mind. Asking questions in a way that seed the answer is common- but may not always get you the critical learning needed. 

Why is that? Your intentions aren’t geared towards learning, but towards validating your assumptions.

Are You Asking Leading Questions?

We are all susceptible to bias, which is why qualitative interviews are so hard. In most cases, we find clients are asking leading or loaded questions.

  • Leading questions prompt or encourage your desired answers.  The most obvious are asking leading questions that result in Yes/No answers.  We all know that is a no-no.  But even ‘open ended’ questions can imply bias if phrasing is not considered:
    • Do you have a problem with wait time? The question is yes/no and also implies the person does have wait time problem- even if they have never thought of it before.

Avoiding leading questions takes practice.  Google is a helpful place to help you identify and avoid phrasing.

  • Loaded Questions contain implicit assumptions.  These questions may limit responses that ultimately serves the questioner’s agenda.  Are you looking to save money on healthcare?  Chances are the answer is YES.  However, the answer tells us nothing about the severity of the need or amount of money to save; or even the impact of savings for other business functions.

Asking leading and loaded questions can cause the interview scripts to get longer without yielding much in meaningful results. 

What is the intention behind your question?

For more efficient interviews, first consider how a question is phrased and the underlying intention of the question. The following Blog by Chris How outlines the nature of questions. He writes,

  • Ask ‘what, when, where, who’ to gather fact and context.
  • Ask ‘how do you’ to uncover processes and flows.
  • Ask ‘how might we’ to investigate opportunities.
  • Ask ‘why’ to find underlying reasons and motivations.

Are you focused on asking Why?

If the goal of your interviews is to understand intentions and motivators for your customer’s behaviors, it seems WHY is the perfect question to get information. 

In training, we often say “Ask Why 5 times.”  Unfortunately, Why? often becomes an afterthought.  Instead, consider Why? as your lead.  Of course, maintain a conversational tone and work to build a relationship. Why? may not make sense as the first question. But it might be your core question in your 5 min. interview.

  • When was the last time you bought this tool?  Why?
  • How often do you do this process?  Why?

The power in asking Why? early and often not only helps you get to motivators quickly, but also helps the interviewee to respond without much bias.  You get cleaner data without doing much more talking.  Also, Why? is powerful to elongate your interview. Your subject may not have considered the motivations behind their behaviors. Your persistent Whys? helps them to think, helps you to uncover data, and overall helps you build a better solution.

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