Interviews as a Group Exercise

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In this module, a facilitator or staff member interviews one of the participants (or interviews a panel of 2 or more participants), while other participants observe. For example, during a strategic planning DesignShop, three members of a company’s Board of Directors might be interviewed about their life experiences, the history of previous major company challenges and how they were solved, and their view of the current organization, etc.) Such an interview could serve a number of purposes: it can “break the ice” and allow Board members to be better known as individuals and thus more accessible to other participants; it can provide a common understanding of risks and new ventures undertaken in the past; and for example, it can clarify Board members’ perspectives that might otherwise be not well heard or misinterpreted by other participants. Sometimes a facilitated communication such as this can help a group break out of a pattern of misunderstanding or division.

To introduce an individual or small group to the larger group; to draw out and communicate to the group certain perspectives or ideas from a key player, such as a customer, supplier, regulator, leader or leadership team; and sometimes, to help unify a group by facilitating communication across a perceived division or to facilitate a communication that otherwise might be misunderstood.

Though it could be used at any time, this module is typically used early in the Scan process (for example, as the first module following the Introduction to the DesignShop). It’s generally used simultaneously with DesignTeam assignments (see variations, below). Interviews can vary in length — typically 30 to 90 minutes.

Strengths — Can address a range of purposes. As a facilitated communication, the facilitator has more “control” — he or she can set the mood and steer the conversation, and thus facilitate clear communication of thoughts that might otherwise be misunderstood. Weaknesses — Unless there is some information that everyone needs to hear from the interviewee or some division to bridge, this format is probably not needed (and could even set up a dynamic of we-they). Specifications for Success — 1. Be sure to clarify your purpose(s) for the interview, and think through the questions to ask. 2. Set it up ahead of time with the interviewees, so they understand the purpose and feel comfortable with the format. Otherwise, you may really put someone on the spot.

Typically, a facilitator conducts the interview and comments are wall scribed; in some cases, the session is video taped and text-documented as well.  

• This is frequently done simultaneously with a Design Team round: for example, half the group works in teams while the other half observes the interview; then the two groups switch, and the interview process is repeated. (If Wall Scribed, leave half the WorkWall free for the second interview).
• Television uses a variety of interview formats which can be used (taken in the right spirit, this can add to the fun). For example, you might interview a series of “guests” in turn, and then facilitate a discussion among them. You might choose to work in questions from the audience. (As always, it has to be appropriate to your purpose; unlike television, your not doing this to entertain; many of the formats they use are combative and divisive and not appropriate to group design).