Product Management Tactics — Create Questions for the Brain to Fall Into

KEY TAKEAWAY When talking with customers and former customers, create questions in the brain for solutions to fall into. Those are open-ended questions that might lead a customer to think about an experience, rather than a simple opinion. OUR TAKE As product people, most of…

KEY TAKEAWAY

When talking with customers and former customers, create questions in the brain for solutions to fall into. Those are open-ended questions that might lead a customer to think about an experience, rather than a simple opinion.

OUR TAKE

As product people, most of us have learned that we can’t ask customers what they want.  After all, it’s hard for customers to even know what’s possible.  For instance, before Uber — if we interviewed people that used a taxi cab and asked them what they wanted, they may have said things like, “Cleaner taxicabs”, “More credit card readers”, and other ideas.  But most people probably wouldn’t have said, “A network of drivers where people use their own cars to pick me up when I send a request via app.”

Instead, we ask customers for their opinions about certain things — and many times, that works pretty well.  We can understand the motivations behind why somebody uses a product… or learn more about the pain points and problems that a customer has.

But in this video, Bob Moesta talks about something different.  Rather than simply ask a customer for their opinion about something — he suggests asking “questions for spaces in the brain for solutions to fall into.”  This is something that his friend and colleague, Clayton Christensen, talks about.

Candidly, this concept is hard to wrap our brains around.  Our take, though — is that sometimes asking for an opinion isn’t really enough.  We may ask that taxi customer to give their opinion on their experience with cabs.  And, they might give us an answer that says their experience is… OK. Sure, those cabs are sometimes dirty… and it may take long to wait for a cab… but generally, the cab got the person where they needed to go when they needed to go. The experience isn’t great, but it’s not so poor that it doesn’t work.

But, we might want to ask that taxicab customer questions a little bit differently.  Instead of asking for their opinion, what responses might we get if we asked… how they felt the last time they got inside of a taxicab.  

Maybe their answer would be something like, “Well… relieved that they finally arrived.  Also a little stressed because they arrived 10 minutes late and now I was late for my meeting.  And hot, because the A/C wasn’t working.”

By asking about how they felt, we can start to identify potential areas where a better solution could exist.  

So, next time you are talking to customers about your products or their experience with similar products… instead of asking for their opinions about it, try something different.  Ask about what they were feeling and thinking the last time they experienced the product. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.