Why asking questions is only half answer by Daniel Tuitt

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eLab Contributor

eLab Contributor

All problems are unanswered questions.

Or so we thought!

The world is continually changing and, a level of  uncertainty can impact the success of start-ups across many industries. This leads to the need for more founders to ask the big questions around how to improve the world - rather than just assuming that they have all the answers.

The relentless ability to ask powerful questions has become a key requirement for many of the world’s most successful companies. Of course, there are numerous questions that go beyond mere assumptions on a single problem.

When you are a founder on a mission to change the world, it is often difficult to separate your assumptions from reality. As is often thecase, asking the wrong types of questions can result in building misleading solutions. Setting aside your own needs when trying to find a solution and, focusing on what the problems are is critical.

Customer’s needs are often complex and, your first idea may not survive testing with your customers. Asking the right questions can help to remove biases, break down barriers and reframe assumptions. This post will help you understand why asking questions is only part of the answer when launching a compelling idea.


Begin with a blank canvas

How do you uncover your customer’s real wants and needs? I am glad you asked.

Asking questions is not enough as many customers simply do not know what they truly want from a solution. Your goal when speaking to customers is not to  focus solely on coming up with features based on what they say. Understand that customers often say one thing and mean something completely different.

If used correctly, the ability to take a step back from the solutions and disregard any pre-developed questions can open the doors to unknown opportunities which truly create new value. By fundamentally changing some of your beliefs as an entrepreneur, you can then think about your customers needs. This shifts the focus from the questions a founders wants to ask  to what problems can be resolved for their target customers. Be prepared for many iterations as you learn from your customer’s behaviours. Be prepared for the fact that your first solution may not solve the problem.

Often founders feel out of their comfort zone when asked to validate their assumptions with customers. However, this process can help you focus on areas that are overlooked and lead to creating a disruptive idea.  

By combining the ability to listen and observe what they do, you can successfully connect with the customer.  


Evidence based learning

Ok! You have spoken to your customers, prioritised the feature for the MVP and you are ready to build something to put into their hands.

Great! However, first you need to check back with customers to understand whether they would pay for or, at least, continually use these features.

In many cases, entrepreneurs will have to work backwards to understand what their target customers really need. Through connecting the desired solution to the customer pain points and motivations you can validate whether any assumptions or hypotheses are necessary. This can remove a level of bias by just observing what your customers experience when using the solutions.

By validating your solution with customers, you have a good chance ofmaking better decisions and understanding whether the idea you propose as a founder will provide a unique experience that leads to a lifetime of fans.  


Formula for success

As entrepreneurs, we need to be comfortable with the idea that we may never haveall the answers. Through learning to be willing to discover what the problems our and, being willing to fail fast. This will allow you willto learn, iterate and create new ideas that delight your target customer. Only through going through thisis process will you understand what you didn’t know. Then the fun begins as you can truly create an innovative solution.  

Never stop asking questions when you present your solution to customers. After all, this is often the way thats new needs are often discovered!

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