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  • Writer's pictureR. A. T. Lab

Guerrillas on the streets

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Guerrilla in the field

Warrior warm-up

We were a few steps, and many ideas further into the product for an Asian market! What started in the Headquarter as team-work sketching, was evolving, incorporating feedback on and off the streets. Off the streets, within the Asian office, we started by testing with office mates and then went on to spend the next few days collecting meaningful feedback that enabled us to build on new ideas, coming out of the local team. These invaluable insights can only be acquired taking into account local market factors. Important cultural aspects prove to be very relevant for the new business model. A combination of these and creative design concepts leveraging local knowledge, brought in a wealth of new impulses making the initiative learn and grow with ever increasing local ownership. Through the excitement of these developments, the testing, validating or invalidating of each new assumption early on, cranked up the momentum needed to rapidly iterate onward.

The "one thing" to do

If there is time and budget for only one activity from all the methods in the box, which one should it be? Make it talking to potential customers - test your idea with real people, outside the building!

Gaining customer feedback or conducting testing can be done differently, depending on where in the project you are. If it’s so early on that real work hasn’t even begun yet, that’s great! Go out into the field to determine what to start with, where design should begin. Observe what people do in real life. The key in this kind of user research is to stay quiet and pay heed, don’t bias the users. Don’t trust what people say, watch what they do. Avoid hypothetical conversations, recreate relevant real life moments and learn how they reacted in them.

In this Asian high tech country, we were in the very fortunate exploratory phase of being able to test early ideas with a clickable mockup (very handy format for street tests). When you have a concrete visualisation in your hands, there can be a tendency to treat it like the solution. Remember, this is not about selling this one idea, it is using the backdrop of this idea for more focused understanding on what problems exist and which ones can be addressed in your venture. Taking early customer discovery interviews seriously, getting them right, is well worth the effort. It is an exercise that will rapidly change and adapt your potential solution as you talk to more and more customers.

Here is a comfortable and convenient way of sharpening your early customer discovery interview skills.


Having conducted these tests on a handful of folks in the safety of the internal organisation, confidence was gained to continue the same on unassuming people on the streets of this great big metropolitan. Out in the field, we spent no more than a few minutes on each willing subject, using Guerrilla techniques. An awkwardness is expected when approaching a complete stranger on the road for an interview. Especially with corporate employees, putting themselves in this setting means moving waaaaaay out of their comfort zone.

Meeting with strangers in corporations generally happens in the safety of meeting rooms with agendas and expectations. Although that’s different out in the field, it doesn’t have to be that daunting. Exercising a little bit of emotional intelligence on the field can go a long way in finding willing ‘subjects’.

  • Watch out for people who seem approachable, try making eye contact, smile kindly - not forcefully, observe their reactions.

  • Restrain over enthusiasm as much as hesitation.

  • No, you won’t seem like a freaky pervert on the prowl just because you’re looking for someone who will talk to you, but do stop the effusive grinning ;-)!

  • If you spot people that seem friendly, but are engrossed on their phone, or in their thoughts or each other, leave them alone. On the other hand, people who seem to be having an animated light-hearted exchange might be more suitable.

  • The first few times you might stumble through the intro, with practice this will smoothen out and the conversation will get rolling.

  • Be prepared - you will also get turned down. Rejection is a very probable outcome, not everyone wants to be interviewed, so don’t be disheartened.

  • We’ve been on the other side of the fence, it isn’t personal if someone is in a rush, not in the mood or never in the mood. That’s ok, slap on the smile, don’t be too eager, too friendly or too shy. Just keep on trying!

  • Conducting interviews on the field in pairs is the most appropriate set-up. Taking recordings, video or audio can be a delicate matter and potentially scare off willing subjects. The best bet is to do it in pairs, switching roles with each between note-taking and moderating.

  • Make a script and study it, but don’t try sticking to it like you’re in theatre. It’s not about going through all the content either. The more important thing is to follow your thread at the back of your head and pick up on cues of information, dig deeper for each precious nugget. It is in really listening, that real learning happens.

The scope of the interviews in this pulsating metropolitan were limited to the core concept and the script was flexibly adapted, adjusting it to early reactions, e.g. working on an insurance product, we found out interestingly enough, presenting the concept as a potential insurance solution evoked negative reactions, which seemed to be representative of the image of the industry. When we left out this piece of information, subjects found the concept of the prototype much more comprehensible, reacted more positively, even sometimes deduced on their own the familiarity to an insurance product.

We got focused feedback on the concept quite easily - how it was perceived, what was working, how to enhance it, and what might be missing for the business model. Much more importantly, we learned loads more than if we would have stayed within the safety of the office buildings. What we found out was educational, enlightening and humbling for the entire team. We listened in on how users think and behave in the unfortunate event of a natural catastrophe, and also how very real, emotional and continually present the risk of actually being in such a situation is. In this island, we literally didn’t have to walk too far to find real potential users, people who either had been in a catastrophe themselves or had close family or friends who were directly affected by natural disaster. The team learned to listen to what these people really need and what they were desperately looking for. We learned to empathise. It gave us a better understanding, on a human level, about what they worry about, what they lack in their present solutions and what they care about most in the event of a disaster.

There is a load of work ahead - in this as in any other innovative business model initiatives, till we crack those needs and design solutions around them. The more we seek out and find people already looking for solutions to the problem you are trying to solve, the more you vet and validate with those early customers, the more certain you can be of your ideas evolving into successful products!

At the centre of a well designed product or service has to be, the benefit to the customer. Do it any other way and you find that people ignore design that ignores people.

Read also:

RAT's stages of market discovery

RAT's 10 Innovation Drivers

Think. Invent. Repeat


Do the opposite!

Work with contradictions

Be more bee

How to know if you baby is ug*y

Keep your hammer

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