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  • Writer's pictureJani de Kock

Fail fast fail often fail forward

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Today’s story is not for the faint hearted. ⚠️ Trigger warning: motion sickness ⚠️




I once threw up in front of a client.

On a sidewalk.

With an additional 15 people watching.

And it was 100% due to my research methodology. 😰

The client was two management consultants from New York. The brief was that they wanted to do intercept interviews on the street taking video footage of the interviews. They were developing an app.

Note: this happened years before Covid, masks and social distancing

I suggested we do the interviews on taxis instead (you can read more about South African taxi's here) We selected a few key routes and made contact with the taxi rank marshals who helped us.

We screened commuters and interviewed them while they were en-route. To ensure the taxi didn’t loose out on passengers the two consultants and I sat on the little space behind the driver and our respondents were in the first row. And that’s how it happened. 🤢 Traveling in peak traffic in the wrong direction, trying to make notes. I’m sure all 15 witnesses also still tell the story 😂

🙋🏼‍♀️So what did I learn here?

I should have pushed back more. For what reason did they want to walk on the streets and interview people? Did they want a sense of serendipity? Ok but then we needed to significantly relax the recruitment criteria. We wasted so much time looking for the right people. Did they want a feel for the place? Cool. We could do a city and township tour.

And their guide was far too long for intercept interviews. No-one can give you that much time at a moment's notice. Our days were long and physically taxing.

A few days in I swopped us to interviews in a central location with pre-screened respondents and this served us much better.

But wow, you should have seen them work. Each night while we slept, their colleagues on the other side of the world changed the app based on the feedback from the day! It was the power of a sample of one in action. It was revolutionary.

My humiliation was a very small price to pay. I didn’t know it yet but I had stumbled into something called Design Thinking.

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