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Students on my courses are understandably hungry for techniques. They want stuff they can DO to people.

If we are ruthlessly honest, there is more than one driver of this need:

  • A sense that you are not getting to where you need to get to with your topic guide or interviewing protocol and that something different is needed.
  • A desire to look good in front of clients, colleagues and informants – like a clever magician!
  • The sense that the answer is out there, somewhere inside the informants and you have to tease it out of them.

If we focus our analysis even more closely, what gives rise to the need for ‘techniques’ is a feeling of uncertainty, in the interviewer/moderator. They are simply unsure what to do next.

We teach people on the Advanced Course to look inside themselves before launching into a technique or test of others. What is important here is to use your self awareness to explore where the uncertainty is coming from. Here are several common sources:

1)    You received a message – a thought or feeling – from your inner world. It could be a sudden recall of something put aside or forgotten, a change in your mood or disposition, something that invaded you from another part of your life – a row with your boss, a fear of a picky client, even a sense that your manner, clothes/appearance is unflattering.

2)    Something slightly out of kilter happened in the outside world, including situational factors like sudden noises, interruptions, changes of atmosphere or personal factors like somebody in the room doing or saying something that surprised you.

3)    There was a genuine moment of new, unexpected information or feeling about the product, brand, service or company at the centre of the inquiry.

Identifying the source of your uncertainty or surprise is going to give you a huge amount of information about what to do with it. Does it need resolving or do you just need to GET OVER IT!?

If you do launch a technique, remember that it will take a solid 45 minutes to really extract the juice from it. Even if you do Chinese Portraits (if Danone was a country, what country would it be? If Ford was a kind of music, what kind would it be? If Google was a celebrity who would it be? Etc), You still need to support and encourage people to explore their own inner pathways that gave rise to their associations – and this takes time!

So, for example if Google came out as Bob Dylan (unlikely I know!), what do the two have in common that fertilise the association – and just as importantly, what aspects of Dylan or Google are not represented by the other party?
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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues