Successful ventures are built on discovering and understanding meaningful problems. There is no better way to do this than by getting out and speaking to the people who are experiencing the pain associated with your chosen problem area. As your venture evolves and changes you need to keep your user at the centre of the validation and design processes - interview can help you do that. Different research stages call for different interview styles and Topic Map Interviews allow for this. By creating a topic map to guide your conversation you can allow yourself to stray off on tangents with your interviewee while being mindful of the information you need to get. Based on the example below, arrange your needed information into themes and add specific points around each. Tick these points off as you address them throughout the chat. If you are conducting an in-depth interview using a Topic Map it may be a good idea to record the session so that you can allow conversation to flow rather than focusing on taking extensive notes. Alternately, you can use Topic Maps to guide scrappier conversations too - just be sure to have someone on hand to help with note taking.

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WHEN: Topic Map Interviews are great throughout the venture building process. They are best used when your team is looking to dig into the finer details of experiences and allow the interviewee to take some of the lead.  Topic Map Interviews should encourage storytelling from your interview subject which can uncover unexpected insights about your problem and inspiration points for your solution.

WHY: Topic Map Interviews give both you and your interviewee the ability to explore aspects of life and experience connected to the problem area in a way that can be both flexible and deep. By stepping away from the questionnaire format you'll be more likely to find meaningful insights that are surprising and wouldn't arise based on question and answer.

SUPPLIES & RESOURCES:  Topic maps can be created using PowerPoint or Keynote or with a pen and paper. If you're using Topic Maps in an in-depth interview setting you should ideally have a quiet room and camera or audio recorder to capture the session. Either way you should be sure to get written permission from your subject in the form of a release statement. A release is particularly important if you intend to use any of the recording for marketing or other public purposes.

Here is an example of a release statement from