A few weeks ago, I was filled with excitement to be on field again, meeting people and getting my hands dirty once again on a 1:1 interview basis, but it was also peppered with a teeny bit of fear since I haven’t done it for a couple of years now.

Six weeks and three projects later… reports handed in, I find myself stopping and reflecting how I performed. Who did I have to ‘be’ in order to be a good researcher?

I explored the way researchers ought to listen in my earlier article: “Tips on How to ‘Listen’ Well During a User Interview”. This time I want to discuss Curiosity.

Merriam-Webster Definition of [Curiosity] 1 : desire to know: a : inquisitive interest in others’ concerns : nosiness The construction inside their house aroused the curiosity of their neighbours. b : interest leading to inquiry intellectual curiosity Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.

What is the value of curiosity?
Curiosity is related to an inquisitive way of thinking that includes exploration, investigation and learning. Curiosity also facilitates a deeper connection to ourselves, others and the world around us, which is especially important during field research; it increases the quality of interpersonal relationships, which is essential in our roles as researchers.

Are We Born with Curiosity?

You bet! Do you recall watching any child pretty much sticking anything they can get hold of and putting in right into their mouths intuitively? Just about everything is brand new and interesting. They’re curious, and they’re using all five senses to learn about their surroundings.

Our curiosity can be linked to a behavioural characteristic of the human species call neoteny. Neoteny in humans is the ‘retention of juvenile features’ well into adulthood, which explains why we have this lifelong ability to be curious.

However as I grow older, I do find myself a victim of becoming less and less curious, with a narrative of “Things just are…”. Hence my reflection is not just about being curious during user interviews, but to reflect about my curiosity about the world in general. That if I can nurture and strengthen the curiosity that I already have, I will be able to access curiosity easily especially when I need it to do my work well.

So, how to cultivate curiosity?

  1. Question your curiosity and/or lack-of it
    Why does the user do what he/she does? What are the activities? What does each of these activities spark in them? What are the activities they do not engage with? Why not? We can go on and on… Once we activate curiosity, the possibility to dig deeper happens. The more questions we ask, we create more mysteries in our heads, and henceforth the urge to solve them.
  2. Embrace uncertainties
    When we embrace uncertainties, we open our minds. Try doing things differently: if you have always used your right hand to brush your teeth, try using your left hand tomorrow. Feel how uncomfortable that can be but it also creates a different brushing experience! Explore other simple ways to do things differently and when we are on-field, how might we translate some of that to your interview sessions?
  3. Biases and stereotypes are our enemies
    When we think we know everything about these archetypes, behaviours, phenomenas … “I’ve done this a million times now, I know it all!”, that’s our deathbed for curiosity. It closes our minds, it does not invite new ideas or possibilities.

I was recently asked how to conduct a good interview. I understand that the technicalities of a well-crafted Discussion Guide, a conducive environment and articulate/expressive respondents are much needed. I mulled over the question and then came to this: if we add ‘care’ on top of curiosity, it not only enriches our conversations our respondents, but certainly with our loved ones too! As much as we have radars for BS, we also have radars for authenticity. If we can use the following formula in our conversations, it no doubt, will lead to deeper connections.

Curiosity + Care = Deep Connection

The next time you go on field research, be mindful about wearing ‘curiosity’ and ‘care’ into your conversations. Let me know how that works for you! If you find this article useful or inspiring in any ways, do give me a clap or two 😉