It’s been a week of interviewing as part of research with a client. And for the first time I’ve been using Otter.ai to record the conversations.

We’ve been playing around with Otter for a while to do transcriptions and help with editing on WB-40, but this is the first time I’ve used it to help with research interviewing. The accuracy of the transcriptions is OK, good enough to pull out particular phrases for verbatim quotes. It’s certainly a lot more effective that my undergraduate days of using a transcription tape deck with a foot pedal, when transcribing interviews would take hours.

Realistically, though, lots of transcribed interview data is pretty unwieldy to use. Content analysis techniques can reduce words to numbers, but that’s not an approach in which I personally see much value.

But a new feature on the app versions of the product is to create a Word Cloud from the transcript. Something like this:

(that was the output from the interview I recently did with Jude Jennison for the podcast). Now this has got me thinking…

If you keep an eye on what I do you’ll know that play has become something of an obsession for me in recent years – particularly in how introduce playful techniques into my consulting work. Whether it’s using rich pictures (and a lot of Artefact Cards) to help explore issues of collaboration, or the Priority Cards, or my extensive use of Lego.

But I’ve been battling with how to change the staid and unhelpful consulting practice of “The Report”. The thing that goes back to the client at the end of the engagement to summarise what has been found or what is recommended. The big consulting firms seem to create these dreadful documents by the kilo.

What can I do to introduce play into the findings, rather than just the exploration and research?

Well, the word clouds have given me an idea and it’s going to go a little like this. In reporting back to my clients, I’ll create cards with the word clouds generated from the interviews, and others with the names (and hopefully photos) of the people with whom I spoke. The game will then be to match the word clouds to the people.

The exercise we’ve been going through has focused on with whom people in the organisation are interacting. From that we’ll start to understand gaps in the organisation’s current skills, structures and processes. I’m hoping the game will help the client to understand the different viewpoints and perspective in play at the moment, and how those perceptions need to be changed or met. Will they be able to match any of the word clouds to speakers? We’ll see.

Does getting them all “right” matter? No, not really. It’s another way to allow the client to be able to have conversations about what they need to do, supported by naturally subjective evidence, to identify what needs to happen to change.

We’ll see how it goes. But this feels like the start of how I can use technology to start to create entirely new ways for people to interact with one another and with qualitative data. It’s rather exciting.

One thought on “The Word Cloud Game

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