In Search of Human (Competitive) Intelligence Part 3:

Authored bycascade

Three Ways to Bias Your Interviews (or Not)

Each of us brings particular strengths to our work, framed by our experience and expertise. The darker, reverse side is also true: our predispositions can threaten our objectivity and therefore the accuracy of our research. In the case of human intelligence, the same is true of our interview subjects. Bear the following points in mind to be wary of (and avoid) such interference:

  1. Define your bias early in the process, including how your own experiences, preferences, and allegiances related to a product, technology, or company could influence your findings. You are almost certainly not objective at the outset of the project, and it is human nature that both you and your interviewee will start to form suppositions during the process. Acknowledging that tendency is an important first step toward mitigating it.
  2. Be cautious of confirmation bias, where tentative conclusions from completed interviews cause you to guide future interviews to support your hunches. For example, if you believe that you know how a study is going to turn out, you are likely to be predisposed toward having that conclusion confirmed as a result of your ongoing research. Be on your guard against asking improperly leading questions or selective attention.
  3. Interview a broad range of people, in different roles at different companies. While a large sample size is not always possible, different types of interviewees can compensate for each other, smoothing out the overall bias of your interview cohort. For example, people who like a technology see the world differently than people who don’t, and you can often learn more from two populations of opposite polarization than one “objective” population.

This entry is the third in a series of four blog posts about human intelligence gathering. The first post, “Three Aspects of Identifying Humans,” helps competitive intelligence practitioners initiate the process, in terms of identifying and attracting potential interview subjects. The second post, “Three Sources for Tips in the Search for Human Intelligence,” provides resources to help create best practices for human intelligence gathering. The fourth post, “Three Pieces of Ethical High Ground to Protect at All Costs,” deals with a few key ethical issues that you should bear in mind.

By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart

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