Is A Dumb Question The Right One?

If you have not had at least a few uncomfortable, or even embarrassing social networking experiences, then you are not taking full advantage of what the social networks can do for you and your small business.

2010.11.10 Question

A Proving Ground for New Ideas

The social web is an ideal proving ground for your new product and service ideas.  You will not always be pleased with the feedback your receive, but you will learn a great deal from if you are able to set emotions aside.  

Use crowdsourcing to elicit feedback that you are almost certain will generate mixed results.  Much of the time what we observe is people searching for agreement.  No risk in that – and no progress either.

Over the years I've had many customers genuinely try to help me by giving me feedback that I was not ready for.  As time passed, and my perspective changed, I realized that they had shared uncommon wisdom – and that they were right.

Being Wrong to be Right

Here's an important question: Would you rather be right all of the time, or would you rather make more money and succeed in ways that you never thought were possible? 

It's a good idea in this changing business environment to be wrong once in awhile. If you prefer, consider this being wrong to be right.  One example of this is intentionally making mistakes to encourage engagement with your prospects and customers.

Making intentional mistakes is a tactic.  What I'm talking about is strategically engaging with the communities you serve in such a way that you test the limits of generally accepted practices.  This is how you get your head around what isn't being done that could be a game changer. 

The Right Questions

Today I was doing some brainstorming between meetings when I realized that some of my best ideas came when a customer had asked me a question that I had initially discounted. To put it bluntly, they had asked what I thought was a dumb question. 

This is where breakthroughs come from, provided you reconsider. Your customers are helping you to think about what you and every one of your competitors have not yet considered.  You should be thanking them, I know I have.

Here's an example.  When I owned my contracting business one of my best customers asked me a question after we had just finished a major project at his home.  He asked, "What's next?" 

I responded, "What do you mean what's next, we're done?" 

"You don't get it, do you?"  To which I replied no.

The point he was trying to make was that I should start thinking of my customer relationships in terms of a process, not as a transaction.  And so, I did – and still do. 

What's Next?

So, today I was envisioning myself collaborating with my customers – audience members, meeting planners, and speaker bureaus.  I wondered what the were questions that we should be asking each other. Every one that came to mind seemed to revolve around us thinking long-term. That's what builds businesses.

Is there a risk to this approach?  Of course there is.  Now, if you don't ask there is no risk, but there is no progress either.

I don't know about you, but I've decided if my business is going to continue to be relevant, I have to figure out ways to do what hasn't been done.  The dumber the idea, the more seriously I will consider it.

You can be comfortable or you can move your business to the next level.

Now it's your turn. 

What's next?

Has this been helpful?   Then give that Facebook Like button below a click to share with your community, leave a comment, or considering subscribing to the feed. 

Until tomorrow,   Jeff

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  1. Lots for me to think about as usual! I’ve been trying to get myself comfortable with being wrong out loud, lol! I’m sure I am and often, but I don’t like it…I’m learning that sometimes you have to take that risk and try something or ask the “dumb” questions. I’ve been burned plenty of times by not doing this so I’ve been working on it!

  2. Jen – You’ve got the right idea. Good luck.

    BTW, did you notice that Miami University was just ranked #2 of all national universities behind Dartmouth (and ahead of many Ivy League schools) for undergraduate teaching quality.

    Quite an honor!