“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
The biggest threat to storyfinding – uncovering the true challenge, desire and/or “why” of our prospects and clients – is assumptions.
Assumptions are tricky creatures. The word assumption comes to us from the 1590s and means “to suppose, to take for granted without proof”. In the 1600s it also took on the meaning “to take or put on fictitiously”. In other words, we make up information and believe it to be true. And then we act on that belief. Yikes!
The vast majority of the time, we don’t even know we’re creating these assumptions. We interact with others from the foundation of our own experiences and understanding of the world. It is an incredible challenge to set this aside in order to uncover and hear something new, unexpected and/or unfamiliar.
Yet, when we meet this challenge, we not only deliver excellence to our clients, we anchor these relationships with a level of trust, honesty and loyalty that gives our work and our businesses enviable stability.
How can we consistently set aside our assumptions? What can we incorporate into our daily conversations?
Assumptions don’t only apply to our discussions with prospects and clients, they also impact our development of new products and services. Our excitement and desire can completely cloud our judgement creating confirmation bias. At this point we will:
- Neglect to seek out objective facts;
- Interpret all information as supportive of our idea;
- Only remember or work with information that supports our idea; and
- Ignore information that challenges our beliefs.
Whether a new product, a custom training program, or a long-term consulting relationship, assumptions limit – and sometimes destroy – our ability to deliver excellence.
The solution is in this magic phrase.
Several elements of storyfinding support ditching our assumptions: curiosity, empathy and improvisation to name a few. But the real champion of eradicating our assumptions is one simple, open-ended question: Tell me more.
Because we don’t know what we don’t know, we have to inspire our prospects and clients to share their knowledge with us. Of course, we are going to have specific, pointed questions we want to ask. That’s an essential part of preparation. But somewhere in every conversation (and often more than once), we want to learn, expand our understanding, embrace new information. The options are infinite:
- I’m not as familiar with that product as I’d like. Tell me more …
- Wow, that’s fascinating. Tell me more …
- Tell me more about your current process …
- Tell me more about your current goals …
- I’ve done some research on your project but do tell me more …
The next step is also simple but a life-long practice – listening, fully. This involves relaxing into our conversations, taking notes, creating more questions and being confident that we are truly ditching our assumptions.