Your answer or your action?

Published by Tony Quinlan on

A quick one this – I’ve just spotted Seth Godin‘s two-line blogpost today:

You can listen to what people say, sure.
But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.

I like some of Seth’s material – he’s calmed down since the fervour of the early 00s and he doesn’t pretend to have the underlying science of Gladwell, but he has some thought-provoking comments…

And this one reminded me of one of the things that someone once commented on when I was showing them SenseMaker® – that by collecting experiences instead of asking for answers to questions, we are avoiding what they called “The Starbucks problem”.*

Apparently…  Consumer research used to ask the question “How do you like your coffee?” to which most people answered that they liked their coffee black.  But sales figures didn’t correlate – clearly that wasn’t the reality.

Respondents had no reason to lie, in fact they probably answered from real belief – that was how they thought they liked their coffee.  (Just like I believe I’m always kind to small puppies and professional in all my business dealings.) Our behaviour, however, doesn’t always match our beliefs.

So instead, a question like “How did you take your last coffee?” shifts from opinion/belief to reality in context.  And the figures then match.  (Similarly, “how did you treat the last small puppy you met?” might reveal something other than kindness.  I’m sure that a regular assessment of my real experiences in businesses would reveal fewer professional moments than the ubiquity I’d prefer…)


For me, this is where SenseMaker® kicks in so beautifully.  Start with an experience, then ask them questions about the experience – never diverging from that moment to the point they might fall back into opinion…

So.  Rather than, “how difficult is it to design a SenseMaker® project?”, how about “what was your last project like?” – and mine was bloomin’ easy and straightforward!



*This may well be apocryphal – any resemblance to actual Starbucks problems is purely coincidental and should be treated with suspicion and approached only from a safe distance.**

**Although approaching from a safe distance is rarely the problem – the problem usually starts well into the approach when “a safe distance” is now a distant memory and the approachee is actually now dangerously close.