How to Ask Better Questions

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Although I preach the gospel of The Mom Test, I’m a sinner. I spend too much time trying to be right when I should be seeking the truth. Even so, seeing my copy of Rob Fitzpatrick’s book on my shelf serves as a useful reminder of the imperative to get better at creating truly useful customer conversations.

Customer Conversations Are Bad by Default

According to Fitzpatrick, customer conversations are bad by default. It’s your job to fix them.

  • Talk about their life instead of your idea.
  • Ask about specifics in the past instead of generalizations or speculations about the future.
  • Talk less and listen more.

The problem is confirmation bias—the universal tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, particularly those that are deeply entrenched or emotionally charged.

They say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you. This is technically true, but it misses the point. You shouldn’t ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It’s a bad question and everyone will lie to you at least a little. It’s not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It’s your responsibility to find out. —Rob Fitzpatrick, The Mom Test


The Mom Test can be read in a single sitting. We encourage you to read it. Short of that, download Notes from the Mom Test to scan some of the highlights.