W e need customer input to create products people love—products they want to use and pay money for. You can use questionnaires to try and understand your users’ motivations, but the problem is thatquestionnaires lack flexibility and don’t get to core human emotions.
The solution: generative research.
Hands-on exercises unlock the mental space where your customers’ motivations live. There’s always a gap between what we say and what we do —that’s just human nature. Generative research gets past the cognitive filters and brings out the deeper levels of human experience.
Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders wrote (opens PDF) , “When all 3 perspectives (what people do, what they say, and what they make) are explored simultaneously, one can more readily understand and establish empathy with the people who use products and information systems.”
Benefits of hands-on exercises for interviews
Become a better listener and reach a shared understanding
Make a conversation unfold naturally and achieve a strong rapport
Get rich information on users’ motivations and expectations
Discover ways to get stories full of emotion and detail
Learn from the participant’s own insights about themselves
Feel true empathy to generate a solution
Types of exercises
The cool thing about the generative research method is that it’s just a framework. It’s a way of thinking andconducting research, and it encompasses many types of exercises. Let’s explore some of them.
ListsThis exercise is basically asking participants to recollect ideas related to a given concept. What you’ll get are ideas from the top of their mind, which is good because it means those are the most important to them. Lists are low effort to complete but yield rich discussion.
Lists are useful for:
Collecting elements of a category (e.g. “Types of meals I cook”)
Gathering feelings and needs around a topic
Compiling inventories (e.g. “What’s in my bathroom cabinet”)
Capturing schedules about a day
For this exercise, you give participants a series of incomplete sentences that they must finish. This is a good trick to have them project their inner associations with the concept you’re exploring. These are easy to complete and are good conversation starters.