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General Elicitation Method

The General Elicitation Method is a technique that combines private-answer and public discussion methods of data gathering to address certain weaknesses of each approach when used alone. It is best suited to gathering, organizing, and understanding ither particular problems with an existing system, product, or solution – or to describe desired new-capabilities or features of a product or solution from the point of view of target users or customers.

What We Do

We will work with you to understand and describe the desired target participants, (user profile, persona) and recruit them. Participants are given note cards or large post-its and writing materials and are directed to write down one idea per card or post-it, and then pass to the person on their left or right. This particpant reads the note or notes passed to them, and can then:

  1. add a new one of their own
  2. respond to or clarify one of the notes they received
  3. disagree / counter one of the received statements or observations.

This activity continues until the items have gone all the way around the table at least onece or until particpants run out of new things to add. The facilitator then has the group categorize and cluster the items according to criterion that the group evolves, and label the clusters – along with recording the discussion of why the groups and labels used were chosen.

What You Get

GEM provides:

  1. an extremely rich understanding of the particpant’s mental model of the domain or product being discussed
  2. a large amount of detailed feature or issue description
  3. richly reasoned categorization and labeling of the groups of similar items
  4. insight into what messaging will best set user expectations (from what creates alignment within the as they all particpate in categorizaton & labeling).

The method ensures full particpation and avoids group-dynamics’ negative impacts (a weakness in focus groups) by requiring private-responses from each person - and provides ample group-process enrichment/synergy, discussion and clarification during the clustering, labeling and prioritization phases.  


Benchmark Research & Safety, Inc. is a human factors and ergonomics consulting firm that specializes in usability, user-centered design, product safety, warnings, expert witnessing, research (design, ethnographic, perceptual) and training. Benchmark Research & Safety, Inc. is one of the few multi-capability firms in the Northwest - headquartered in Moscow, Idaho with branch offices in Boise and Rigby, Idaho; Portland, Oregon; and Grand Junction, Colorado.