Crime and product research and exploration – same thing

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Crime Scene

Crime (writing) and Product Research are near identical twins. The parallel hit me end of last year while reading “Missing: New York” by Don Winslow. In the book, a detective is hunting down a group of people that have abducted a little girl (one of many twists and turns, of course). Despair in family is great, the detective loses his job while on the hunt and things get a little rough. Of course, our man stays on top of the situation. He has time to tell us how he works. And this is how he goes.

On how to start an interview:

“Experience taught me not to get to the point right away in interrogations. You’ve got time, take it. Let people talk, let them tell their stories. Often, you’ll get to hear what you need.” 

In the next citation, he gives an example of such an interview and how he approaches it. He takes care to explain to us the danger of transferring his own bias onto the interviewee and thus falsifying the results of the interview.

“Tell me what you saw“ I said. Because you never start with a direct question. 

„How did the girl look like? How tall was she?“

With these questions you transfer your own bias to the witness – and this is something that should never happen. If you ask open questions, they tell you what matters to them and that’s exactly what you want to hear.  In other words:  You already know what you know.

And finally an example of the value of early invalidation. In this case, early invalidation might even save life, of course. For us it simply means, we don’t have to research further into this direction under this context and rather can start research into a completely different direction – open the room again to something completely different.

“You can also call it progress when a suspicion is ruled out – and the Bensons  I now nearly ruled out for certain.”

It’s funny how crime, hunting down the criminals and hunting down customer needs, aka product research and exploration share the same problems, techniques and principles in completely different contexts. Both can also be a lot of fun, of course.

All citations are from “Missing: New York” by Don Winslow (one of the best living crime authors!)

Photo by Alan Cleaver used under CC License - Thanks!

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