More answers are available than we might think

We’re often faced with decisions that seem outside our area of expertise. Last week I met some founders on the Emerge.Education programme and one of them gave an example of this: her company was considering changing from content management system A to content management system B. It seemed like a big step, and while her tech team were enthusiastic she felt she needed some balance in the decision. She didn’t feel she had a good handle on the real consequences, and felt very uncertain.

But we are less alone than we sometimes think—others will often have had experience of these things. Sometimes we can call them up; sometimes they’ll have put their experience on the web. In the case of a popular content management system we can guarantee people will have had problems and written about them (possibly to vent their frustration, possibly to seek answers). A search for “Problems with Product B” or similar will yield some results. Then we can get a bit more of a rounded understanding.

In “The Lean Startup” Eric Ries suggests something similar: take your product idea, or feature idea, and try out a prototype with some random people in a coffee shop or similar. If five out of five people don’t like it, you probably need to reconsider it.

Our schools encourage us to think for ourselves. Exams require us to have the answers without conferring. But most of the time in real life we can use very simple techniques to draw out answers that are easily accessible, and they will often get us a very long way towards our goal. Sometimes that’s as simple as seeking out others and speaking to them.

Photo by Energy Citizens