First discover where your client is self-reliant

Are we asking the right questions when we want to know what our customers really want?

Today, there’s so many ways to find out – and to get it wrong.

Our questions need to start from the self-reliance of the customer. Consider this…

A strategically driven not-for-profit recently had me facilitate a session on a new programme offering on, ‘how to manage money’. We invited in a group of self-declared math-deficient learners to a roundtable discussion. We were joined by folks from the literacy field and the major sponsor, a bank.

Most of the observers expected the learners to be somewhat helpless in their math deficiency.

Instead, the questions we asked the learners were about their math expertise, albeit modest. These better questions sought to know what they knew, not what was wrong.

What are you most pleased about in your math skills?

On a scale of 1-10 where would you place yourself?

Suppose that number was to go up a little, what would you have learned?

How would that be useful to you and your employers, family, etc.?

When you received good training in the past, what did that look like?

Suppose you were getting tutoring on math skills, what would that look like?

What made these questions useful to the learners and the observers?

Notice, the lack of discussion about the problems they faced. Instead we explored the platform of what already worked and built the ideas for improving their skills from there. This enabled the learners to identify what they wanted. It helped the observers see the gaps that needed to be filled.

With rich and helpful answers based on their existing self-reliance we then invited the learners to talk with the literacy experts to further discuss their needs.  The professionals were able to immediately engage in asking questions about developing solutions for the learner ‘customers’. They knew where help was not needed and where it was required.

Does this apply to the world of business and consumers? Absolutely.

Interestingly, as the math learners were about to leave, one of the group asked if they could stay and contribute to the planning session. They did. It turned into a fine co-creation session.

More about asking solution focused questions.

Note: a) this is an update of a 2011 post, b) picture credit: Blair Kay

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Alan Kay

Alan Kay. Speeding up Change - Strategy. Customer & Stakeholder Co-creation. Solution Focus. Author & Speaker. Book: Fry the Monkeys - Create a Solution.

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