The ORID Method (Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional)

Published – 15 July 2017 By Gavin Beever

The ORID method is a great way to structure a survey, interview, presentation or discussion. It can assist by taking participants through an experiential learning process.  It helps them develop their thinking in a logical manner and then draw their conclusions in respect to the situation or topic in question. It follows a natural human process for focused communication.

The ORID method was developed by Laura Spencer of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (USA) and is based on the Kolb Experiential Learning Model (Kolb, 1984). Laura Spencer is the author of the book, Winning Through Participation (1989), which details the ORID method.  The method was further developed by Brian Stanfield in his book, The Art of Focused Conversation (2000).

The key to using it effectively, is to help participants ask questions of themselves in relation to the topic or situation being presented.

ORID is an acronym for Objective, Reflective, Interpretational and Decisional.

Objective – This first sets the scene.  Provides the context.  Establishes the facts and introduces any data sources that are behind the subject.  It provides the basis for all parties to “get on the same page”.  Using the method you ask questions that relate to establishing people’s knowledge and understanding of the subject area in question.  E.g.  What is your understanding of…?  How would you describe X?

Reflective – During this phase participants are helped to identify or context their own situation to the subject, objectives or learning outcomes in questions.  It gets out their reactions and feelings towards the subject.  Providing key questions, analogies, practical examples or benchmarks are useful in helping participants reflect. By having first established the facts and understanding of the situation by objective questioning; reflexive questioning commences a learning journey in relation to the topic.  E.g.  How do you feel about X?  What was your reaction when you first did Y?

Interpretive – In this phase assistance is provided with additional information or the opportunity for further questioning that helps participants to learn further about the subject and identify what it is that may be important to them in respect to it. Using the context provided in the objective and reflexive phase, the interpretive phase is used to delve deeper into the subject area and develop a greater understanding.  E.g.  Given your experience with X, what was the best part about it?  Given your experience with Y, are there things you would consider changing about the process?

Decisional – This is the final stage that helps draw conclusions and documents what future actions may be taken by people; given the discussion that has already taken place in the first three phases.  E.g. Out of those different options we have discussed, what would be the first thing you think should get done?  What do you now plan to do as a result of X?

As the ORID process is based on the experiential learning model, the suggested elements to check your process against are:

Review/Reflect – Are the participants able to identify their current level of ability in respect to the subject area and/or are the participants able to identify the importance of it to themselves and their own circumstances?

Context/Interpret/Make sense of – Can the participants context the information you provide against their own personal situation?

Plan – Can the participants identify what they should do that may be important to them, in relation to the objectives you set for the activity?

Act – As a result of the use of ORID, can the participants identify actions that will assist them in achieving the outcomes set for the activity or subject area?

Using ORID starts a logical order of thinking, interpretation, learning and decision making; compared with  more random or brainstorming type approaches. It focusses a “conversation” and takes the interviewer and interviewees on a semi-structured, systematic, learning and decision making journey together of mutual discovery.

Content sources and further information

B. Stanfield (2000). The Art of Focussed Communication. New Society Publishers ISBN: 9780865714168