Customer Interviews: Allow Yourself to Be Surprised

A few thoughts on customer interviews and why their capacity to surprise us makes them preferable to surveys and landing pages for early market exploration.

Customer Interviews: Embrace SurpriseCustomer Interviews: Embrace Surprise

“If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.”
Heraclitus (Fragment 18)

You can’t have a conversation with a landing page, so while you can validate your assumptions it’s less useful in my experience than actually talking with prospects. You can be surprised in a conversation and improvise additional questions or even your own new answers to unanticipated questions from a prospect.

A surprise means that you are learning. Or at least that you have an opportunity to learn if you embrace it.

I find that many entrepreneurs with a science or engineering background tend to focus on what’s most efficient–for them–and prize automated or mechanical interaction over conversation. No one likes surprises but if you appreciate what it really means you can become a little more comfortable starting a conversation that may lead into unanticipated areas.

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
Paulo Coelho in “The Alchemist”

h/t Johnnie Moore’s  “Decisions

Roger von Oech’s “Expect the Unexpected”

Roger von Oech wrote a great book “Expect the Unexpected Or You Won’t Find It” that riffs on 30 epigrams from Heraclitus to encourage creative thinking. He blogged about the “expect the unexpected” epigram in “Be Willing to Be Led Astray.” Here are a couple of Heraclitus’ more famous quotes to give you a flavor:

  • “All is flux, nothing stays still.”
  • “A man’s character is his fate.”
  • “Nothing endures but change.”
  • “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”

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