Malcom Gladwell, author of "The Tipping Point" came to Microsoft to speak about his new book, "Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking."
The room was packed, and everyone there was fascinated with his examples of the follies of trusting "traditional" decision making. The examples he gave were aimed at questioning traditional market research methods. He wonders how marketers can trust customers to make judgments based on an artificial environment (sitting around a table responding to "what if" scenarios), and offer insight into thinking processes that are complex and emotional, not logical and linear.
It's why getting out into the environment of the customer is so critical. No survey or focus group or interview will give you answers to the critical "why" questions. Living in the environment, watching how customers use your product when they think nobody is watching, that's the way to learn how your product is being used.
I wondered: Will digital technology ever allow us to really learn how and why and when our products are being used? And can we balance privacy with transparent observation? Should we try?
Another quick topic came up in the Q&A portion of the speech. Someone asked about interviews, and how a hiring manager can make good "snap judgments" about a candidate. Malcom stated that interviews were one of the worst ways to find out about an employee, unless 1) they were being hired to answer questions in interviews, or 2) you were interested in hiring someone you might later try to pick up on, since you can tell whether or not you're attracted to someone in a very short time.
One point of the book is that often we rely on too much information, our own prejudices, past incidences in our own lives, reliance on others' opinions, or facts and figures that shouldn't play into our decisions.
At the opposite end, we don't trust our guts enough when we should. I often conduct my employee interviews in a free-flow manner, seeking mostly to get a sense of a person's character--to see if I think they'd be a good fit with the team. While I may not accurately judge if someone has actually done what they claim on a resume, I can get a sense of "team fit" after a short time.
Fascinating topic. I look forward to reading the entire book.
(Photo: Gladwell signing books, taken by Robert Scoble)