What if the role of an entrepreneur was not about suggesting solutions (answers) but asking the right questions?
This is a fairly new problem that I’ve observed over the years in the tech world.
Before the online world exploded, the objective was getting the right answer because access to knowledge was limited.
Today, it’s asking the right questions because knowledge is at the tip of our fingers.
Consider big data.
As a concept, it refers to a massive scale of diverse, yet hard-to-manage information that floods a business on a daily basis.
But it’s what you do with that data that has the real impact. You can analyze it in a million different ways to boost your decision-making and be more strategic.
In other words: the answers are already there as everything is an opportunity to gain actionable insights. You just need to ask the right questions to get to them.
If you do, you get to become a master in what you do.
Not asking the right questions is a missed opportunity
We entrepreneurs tend to immediately jump into the ‘solution mode’ and/or simply fortify notions that are already there.
As Roee Kashi, co-founder and CTO at Elsight, beautifully said when describing what entrepreneurship is like:
“Focus is definitely the key to success, yet achieving it requires self-discipline and data-driven decision-making.”
An entrepreneur’s ability to bring out the best in a situation is largely affected by whether they engage deep enough about things they already do and can do to perform at their best. This depends, in large part, upon the quality of “questions” you ask:
when you ask better questions, you get better answers, and thus, the information you need to get better results.
A great example of this is selling your product versus raising funding for it.
Yes, almost every startup needs funding. Yes, the primary reason why startups fail, along with running out of cash, is because they can’t raise money.
But funding doesn’t build your business – selling products and services does.
Many of us obsess about fundraising and see it as the answer, allowing it to consume us to the point where what actually matters gets forgotten.
More startups die because they have no market need and get outcompeted than they do by failing to raise capital. This happens precisely because founders didn’t ask the right questions or worse – asked the ones with an answer they wanted to hear.
As a group, we can do better
The ability to meet customer needs often requires going above and beyond what is minimally required.
Being an entrepreneur these days is easier and more scalable than at any time in history.
All the knowledge is online so you can quickly tap into the information you need but don’t have. The amount of easily accessible information and technology is directly proportional to the amount of opportunity.
I find this significantly boosts confidence because there’s always someone or something (e.g. Google) you can turn to.
Just imagine: if I wanted to open up a company that manufactures motorcycles a mere 15 or 20 years ago, I would need to meet someone locally who could show me the ins and outs. If I didn’t have a branch in Italy, for example, I couldn’t sell in Italy.
Today, no matter where you are in the world, you can sell in every corner of the world. Your business potential today is infinitesimally larger than before: it’s global instead of local.
For the same reason, it’s easier to do business development. Instead of meeting people face to face, there are tons of options to connect online on a global scale – and it’s perfectly ok, like not weird at all.
I’ll admit there is an unfavorable side to all this knowledge and automation. It can be overwhelming, too much, to the point where you lose sight of the objective and your attention goes in every direction.
What many don’t realize is this:
every client today is a library of answers, of sorts, you can build off.
Take Facebook as an example. It started as an early 2000s version of small-scale Tinder, basically. Then, it shifted to a Harvard social network, essentially giving a blank page to students to see what they would do. Soon, they started to post photos of themselves and personal information, which then spread to other universities.
Then they were “hey, check this out – you can “poke” someone” and we were like “no, that sucks” – so the Poke button was quietly pushed aside (it’s still alive, by the way) in favor of other, better features.
So, Zuck and the company have built one of the world’s largest companies by metaphorically asking questions: if they didn’t provide the option to upload a photo of students, they wouldn’t know that was what the students wanted (the answer).
My point is: be curious
Questioning is one of those intangible skills that can and should be perfected over time.
In the online world, it’s simply something you have to do.
It’s a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value because you get to learn, innovate, and improve yourself and your team. Plus, it can reduce the ever-present business risk by identifying unplanned issues and dangers.
Let curiosity guide you – you never know what interesting and new ways of doing things you may uncover.