How to Get Inside the Minds of Participants: Using IDI’s in an Agile Approach


Today’s business pace requires the ability to quickly identify new ideas worth investing in. As such, you need an agile approach to research for a more flexible and iterative process. By applying agile methods to your research, you become more efficient while still maintaining momentum in your process. 

Online Focus Groups have always been a great technique for conducting qualitative research. Not only does it bring you rich discussions, but it also sparks the mind with new ideas, giving you flexibility in questions you can ask and enhances opinions amongst participants along with the session. Using the entire group, respondents can provide feedback and bring in new information based on stories shared by fellow participants.

IDI’s vs. Focus Groups

However, there are moments in which an in-depth interview (IDI) might bring results that outmatch the results brought in by focus groups. IDI’s are a great way to get into single participants’ minds to understand their true feelings. When conducting focus group research, the chances are that a  participant (or group) is potentially the dominant factor. By eliminating “group-thinking,” you gather input from participants who are not affected by other participants’ views.

Having a conversation between the participant and moderator only makes it far easier to determine the participant’s emotion during the session. As a moderator, you can monitor the change in tone and word choice to gain a deeper understanding. Even with today’s technologies in which IDI’s are mostly conducted online, you can still watch body language based on how they act in front of the camera. Overall you only need to monitor a single participant to understand what they feel.

An overall focus group consists of about 6 to 8 participants and takes roughly 90 to 120 minutes. If we subtract the time a moderator is speaking, we only have about 10 to 15 minutes left per participant. If you compare this to an individual interview taking 30 to 60 minutes, you will notice there is far more time for the participant to share their opinion. This allows you to ask follow-up questions based on what you learn during the session without addressing a group. Using follow-up questions, you can go more in-depth about a topic and learn the participant’s true emotion.

Taking IDI’s the Agile Approach

IDI’s are an excellent source of primary data for researchers looking to answer more complex or open-ended questions. At CMNTY, we understand that experienced researchers are aware of in-depth interviews’ strengths and stay away from questions that are better answered by other research forms.

Researchers use questions in IDI’s to go deeper and to discover answers that cannot be collected by observation, such as emotions, thoughts, intentions and behaviors for instance. Researchers also know to let their participants talk! You as interviewer, you stay quiet – even if it takes 10 seconds and you maintain silence once the interviewee starts answering. Yes, you rather encourage them to speak aloud and thorough, from start to finish.

In agile research within CMNTY Platform you begin with leveraging your already quantitative and qualitative research results from focus groups, co-creation sessions, whiteboards and heat maps. No need to worry, all your results will be linked to the participant thus within its context. 

Subsequently, more structured IDI’s are conducted, increasing the likelihood of achieving your study goals, while at the same time creating more standardization between response types so that they can be compared without it becoming a cumbersome process. So, based on available early results, create a structured list of questions but give the interviewer the freedom to ask follow up, above all open-ended questions. Make sure you only ask one question at a time and that they are free of bias.

We all understand ‘bias’. But, let’s make sure that all your questions are easy to understand by all your interviewees. Leave your emotions and assumptions out of it.


Based upon your objective and the results you want to achieve, either a focus group or IDI might suit you better. Focus is developed with both research methodologies in mind to provide you the best solution, the best experience, whether you want to conduct a focus group or rather go with in-depth interviews. By using all of the abilities CMNTY Platform offers you, you can simply switch between different research methods and get the results you want in the context it should be.