I’ve been doing a little work lately using Anecdote Circles. I found this Ultimate Guide (pdf) an excellent reflection on the process and how to use it. The guys at Anecdote have clearly done a lot of work not just to give lots of information and advice, but also to make it accessible in design. I found lots of useful nuggets in there.
Perhaps the top tip is the suggestion of posing an emotional question to participants focussed on actualy personal experiences. For instance if you were working with trainers you might ask: what training room experiences have most delighted, surprised or frustrated you? Just by including the emo words, I find you provoke a very different level of engagement.
I think even with the prompt, people often struggle to tell stories of specific incidents. It’s valuable, but hard, to suspend the urge to generalise and to analyse each other’s tales. It’s easy to slide off into dicussions about trends etc. There’s a place for that, but it can miss the power of getting to actual stories of specific things that happened.
I think it’s a case of not seeing the trees for the wood. We slide into comfortable generalities and fail to explore the source data afresh. In fact, I’m also tempted to suggest focussing on twigs.
And if you’re into fractals, you might go one further and see the wood in the twig…