For a great professional case it’s important the expert sees beyond where other lesser professionals get stopped blocked or fobbed off. In what is a classic twist from Murder on the Orient Express, the incriminating hankerchief bears the initial H. So it can’t possibly belong to Natalia. Or so you might think. However Poirot knows that in Russian an H is pronounced an N and so it could indeed be Natalia’s.
The premise of expertise in case history writing is that when nothing is quite what it appears only a specialist with raised levels of perception can ascertain what really is going on.
16 pointers to interviewing a topic holder of a case study
1. Think like a detective.
2. Assume something brilliant has happened, then sniff it out.
3. Spot the unusual
4. Get clear about the problem involved and the pain of the original situation
5. What’s at stake? Beneath the ‘nice to have’ need which triggered the engagement, there’s often a crisis brewing.
6. If another agency handled this, would the kids have gone into care? Would people continue to die unnecessarily, due to missing out on cancer treatment?
7. Probe beneath buzz phrases.
8. Seek out the raised level of perception and knowledge that goes into the brilliance. Hercules Poirot knew that H is the Russian for N, so Natalie could have owned the handkerchief with H on it.
9. Ask what people were doing at the critical moments when the idea or insight came into being.
10. Seek out what’s important, not what appears to be conventionally important.
11. Look for signs of change and transformation and ask what caused these.
12. Don’t forget to ask open questions – and wait for them to surprise you.
13. Ask questions that force the interviewee themselves to make the choice of what was really important. What one single thing contributed most. Where did the value really add? Etc.
14. Locate the passion point. The bit where the interviewee starts to get excited. You know you’re onto the MOB because they’re about to get found out.
15. Get the interviewee to talk about the parts of the story they haven’t spoken of before. If it’s fresh it’s usually more interesting.
16. Enjoy. They’ll wriggle around avoiding their brilliance, but just like a murder suspect, the interviewee will feel relieved when they’ve eventually told the truth.