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Thinking like a detective, the enhanced cognitive interview for improved people experience.

Updated: Feb 3



As leaders, we want to gain factual and reliable information from our teams work touchpoints, these can often be hidden and less visible to you and the wider team. As such, we want to remove our own perspectives which can cause a level of bias. Our insights technique must help us generate reliable people experience's. So, it's suggested the workplace can learn a thing or two from the social sciences.


Enhanced Cognitive interviewing (ECI) is a tool used to help gather accurate and reliable information, for example, the police have used it when interviewing crime scene eyewitnesses. ECI has synergies with non-structured qualitative interviewing techniques. The theory is that questions are posed in a way that interacts with the way our brains retain memories of past events. So, how can we take some of the ECI principles and apply them to our conversations to better understand our team experiences'?


Be mindful that the discussion is with an individual, you're not a detective. You are there to understand and better your future work together. So, create a safe space for them and their information, especially as some insight might be hard to share with you.


  • Relationship, establish a rapport and make sure they are willing, you should in theory already have this with your team, but if you're in conversation with people you've not met before, build a relationship. Explain what the purpose of the discussion is for, and the structure of the below.

  • Focused retrieval, ask them to focus hard on retrieving the information about their daily work experiences. You might already have something in mind, perhaps an internal interview process or personal development plan session. You can give them some context here.

  • Handing control over, hand control over to them for free flow recall. Ask them to share no matter what the perceived relevance might be.

  • Mental reinstatement, what can they remember from how it made them feel etc.. we can often reflect on the things that made is feel a certain way.

  • Interview compatible questions, ask away with your open-ended questions. It's okay for them to say I don't know.

  • Vary the retrieval, reverse the order, and ask them to work backwards through the experience. Explore a different perspective, ask for what someone else's experience might have looked like.

Put simply, the more time you take to understand your team's touchpoints at work, the easier it becomes to adjust for the better. Good leaders serve their teams.

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