Intelligent Pupils Ask Customers “Dumb” Questions

A beginning interviewer who gathers information on a new product idea through customer interviews often anticipates where an answer to their open-ended question is going. They interrupt the customers’ train of thought, finish it in their own words, and move on to pose another question.

This mistake leaves priceless information on latent unmet needs and feature values uncollected. In contrast, seasoned interviewers stay in the Intelligent Pupil role and listen intently to every answer. After listening, they ask what beginning interviewers consider dumb questions. With such questions, Intelligent Pupils confirm the answer and draw out its nuances.

“Dumb” Questions Employed By Intelligent Pupils

  • Why do you say that?
  • I’ve noticed you haven’t mentioned X. Why is that?
  • I’m new to this subject. Do you mind if I ask what sounds to you like a naïve question?

Seasoned interviewers know that even after 30 interviews for a project, “dumb” questions draw out unique and priceless information. The answers help fit your new product idea into the problem space that customers want the new product to solve.

Customers know what they want and “dumb” questions help discover and confirm customers’ latent unmet needs and valued features.

  • Beginning interviewers are afraid to appear ignorant so they hesitate to ask what they consider “dumb” questions.
  • Dogmatic interviewers have a tendency to settle on an answer and gather only information that confirms their answer.
  • Over-confident interviewers become lazy after the first few interviews. A bounty of new and exciting information is often gathered in the first ten interviews. The interviewer becomes dogmatic in the remaining twenty interviews. As a result the interviewer fails to confirm the information or to dig out a valuable latent unmet need.