Gin Kim

a journey to happiness

Week #3 Toothbrush

1. Brush my teeth in the classroom??? (as an interviewee)

When Ben asked me to brush my teeth in front of him in the classroom, I was quite embarrassed. So I just pretended to brush my teeth without toothpaste, but Ben insisted me to use toothpaste as if I brush my teeth at home, and asked me some questions. But how could you speak with the toothbrush and the toothpaste in your mouth?? I could complain about the hard situation, but as I’m kind of a timid asian girl who tends to adapt to the circumstance rather than resisting it, I solved the problem by swallowing the toothpaste not to spill any while talking. (Even if I was afraid of sodium fluoride poisoning. A large amount of toothpaste consumption actually can kill you according to the CSI…)

The first question was ‘what I think when I brush my teeth’. At first, I couldn’t think of anything special  I think during toothbrushing so I said nothing special, then silent pose which might panic Ben a little bit. Then Ben asked me several other questions and I started to talk freely about my personal experience to Korean culture of brushing teeth after lunch, while keeping swallowing the toothpaste. I think we felt more comfortable when the conversation became more like chatting about toothbrushing rather than interviewing & interviewed. One thing which made me really comfortable about this experience was that Ben repeated what I said, interpreting exactly what I wanted to say in accurate English partly to agree with me, and partly to make sure that he understood me from my poor explanation. I thought that this is very good way to relieve interviewees to let them talk more, and more confidently especially when they are not native speaker. In terms of the efficiency of doing actual act, by the way, I’m not sure if it helped me to have more exact or insightful ideas. It was more embarrassing than inspiring for me… If I was asked about more  precise act of brushing teeth, I might have more ideas by experimenting at the same time.

2. What if you don’t have fingers… (as an observer)

I asked Himanshu to try the situation where you can’t use your fingers to hold the toothbrush. I taped toothbrush on his hand with masking tape, and the result was quite simple.

‘No problem for one side, but almost impossible for the other side’




Yes, it’s hard on the right side for the right hand. (thank you, Himanshu!)

This was ‘unexpected discovery’ that it’s hard to brush one side of your teeth when you can’t use fingers, and that the toothbrush has bristles only on one side! I never asked myself why the toothbrush has bristles only on one side. It could have them both side or on 360 degree like ‘toilet brush’ (not very good example to compare with the toothbrush, but couldn’t find the better one)

toilet brushwhy not??..

I realised through this session that this method of user research is simple but strong, and efficient way to find hidden needs of users. Here, I think I have to blame a little bit my uni that let us spend ages to collect useful insights from every kinds of methods from user diary to video surveillance (very very time consuming work) EXCEPT EMPATHIC METHOD. It took me only 5 min to find the hidden need of toothbrush, and now I’m convinced that I can apply this method to any kinds of product or service for your business!


Filed under: MACE 2009

One Response

  1. isaraobba says:

    Would you mind if I ask you to be a part of my billionaire project? 😛

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