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ASK—Always Seek Knowledge™


We were all mislead by pollsters in 2016 (US election and English Brexit). There’s something terribly wrong with who is being asked and how they are being asked. Yet, I remain a firm believer in asking people what they think about a variety of things. If you don’t ask something of someone, you’ll be relying on only your own intuition. Here are some thoughts on questioning people.

  1. Ask your customers how well you are doing. Ask what more you could do to earn their business. Ask about their last purchase.
  2. Ask your suppliers what you can do to reduce costs in collaboration with them. Ask about Value Engineering opportunities.
  3. Ask your trade association for benchmarking and best practices information.
  4. Ask your insurance agent about the latest coverage available for business interruption and cyber attacks.
  5. Ask yourself, your customers and your suppliers about your competition. What do your suppliers like about working with the competitors? What do your customers like about the competitors way of doing business?
  6. Ask everyone about technology that provides opportunity to reduce costs, speed deliver, enhance experience, or replace your product or service.
  7. Ask questions about your internal business such as:
    1. Ask your employees for suggestions to improve the business.
    2. Ask your people to document their processes and find ways to improve them.
    3. Ask what product or service enhancements and improvements are needed.

Early on in my career as a manager, I was taught to ask open ended questions rather than simple yes/no questions. Had pollsters done more of this, they might have picked up on the nuances of the election. If they had asked a broader cross section of people, they might have had a better idea of what people want. I was helping a restaurant business this week and took time to review all of their Yelp reviews. This is a place to get valuable information because somebody else asked their opinion. There are insights buried in the comments that people make.

I’m also tired of surveys that come to my email inbox moments after the credit card transaction is completed. If it were just a simple question or two, I might be willing to answer. But I’ve received surveys that ask for 15 minutes of my time with detailed questions that have little to do with what I purchased. People who generate these surveys need to be much more careful in what they ask.

Here’s an idea from my recent trip to Germany. Over there, I found these simple buttons in restrooms and at border control. Simple and fast, much as the “Like” buttons on websites. Even if it were five buttons, I could see it working. In the medical profession now, they have a pain scale from 1-10 using such simple faces.

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Alas, too often in my career, researchers have developed technology and then gone looking for a problem to solve. Too bad they did not ask what problems people were having and then direct their research that way. Here’s a recent example. Have you noticed that people are not accepting the high wind power dryers in restrooms? Here’s a picture I took recently. Has anyone ever asked you about the thickness of the paper toweling or the dispenser or the wind machine? ASK—Always Seek Knowledge™.

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