The Three Questions

by Cees Quirijns on 5 December, 2011

There are three questions that govern any (potential) business relationship. Sometimes they are asked out loud, more often not. In both instances they nevertheless require an answer:

1. Do you care about me?

Or are you just trying to sell me something with the sole goal of personal benefit.

2. Are you competent?

Or are you just trying to bluff your way into this domain and don’t you know anything more about it than I already do.

3. Can I trust you?

Or will you sell me down the river when you get the chance.

The fact is that most business conversation is directed at answering question 2.  That’s because it’s easy to argue and let’s you do the talking.

If you want a client to answer the first question with a “yes”, you shouldn’t do much talking but a lot of listening instead. More difficult for most.

The third question seldom gets attention in a business conversation, but is always answered by the client quickly and is most determining for whether or not he will do business with you. So you’d better have a strategy there. Very difficult perhaps, but also very worth your efforts.

What’s your strategy and tactics for getting the answers you want?

When Vague is Good

by Cees Quirijns on 11 August, 2011

There’s no doubt that we live in an age that quests for precise information.  Precision can however be dangerous as it keeps us from imagining new possibilities. Vagueness on the other hand is a reminder that we don’t know the answer yet, as is nicely pointed out Jonah Lehrer.

Moreover, researchers from Stanford University have now highlighted another important point regarding vagueness: contrary to popular wisdom it can actually help improve performance!

Here is how it works. Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds. After following a strict diet you decide to weigh yourself: you’ve lost 4 pounds. That is progress towards the goal, but you’re not quite there, which feels disappointing. Result: you might become a little less motivated. In the Stanford experiment the opposite happens when people are provided with vague information:

“Our research suggests that, at times, vagueness has its merits. Not knowing precisely how they are progressing lets people generate positive expectancies that allow them to perform better. The fuzzy boundaries afforded by vague information allow people to distort that information in a favorable manner”

Too much precision in measuring progress can therefore have the unwanted effect of diminishing motivation to reach goals.

Further contributing to the case for vagueness is research from the Eastern Kentucky University: problem-solving ability is increased when relying on vague verbs to describe the problem. Domain-specific verbs namely inhibit analogical reasoning, making it less likely to discover useful parallels. Sometimes simply rewriting the problem in vague terms led to impressive improvements in the performance of subjects to come up with a solution.

So the next time you want to come up with a better solution to a problem or want to reach goals that are still far away, consider throwing some vagueness in the mix in order to improve performance.


July 25, 2011

Every company needs a strategy. A strategy for solving the most important challenges a company faces in its market. Few companies actually have a strategy though. What they do typically have is a set of ambitions and/or goals and mistake these for strategies. For example: “Our strategy is to become the leading provider of product […]

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Trial and Error

July 18, 2011

Economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems — and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. In this sparkling talk from TEDGlobal 2011, he asks us to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes. Harford describes the “God Complex” as the overwhelming belief that we are […]

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June 27, 2011

Many entrepreneurs are  in love with their product or service.  And that’s fine as you need this mind set to make it through the inevitable ups and downs in order to see your ‘child’ to market. The consequence however  is as well, that entrepreneurs often fail to clearly position their company against the competition, being […]

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Value = Idea x Execution

May 9, 2011

There isn’t a day that goes by without a couple of splendid ideas that are thrown at me. Sometimes, people just hint at having a brilliant idea, but are so afraid that somebody will steal it, that they get all defensive in requiring a complicated signed NDA, before even disclosing the idea. That always makes […]

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The Mismatch Between Business and Society

April 20, 2011

Technological progress over the past 50 years has been tremendous. If a person who died in say 1930 were to be brought alive today, he would be truly amazed about being able to telephone without a wire, seeing high quality color TVs that are as flat as a dime and mind boggling advances in the […]

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Why every CEO should be Tech Savvy

March 3, 2011

Every CEO should be tech-savvy because Technology no longer merely facilitates business, but actually drives it. Most CEO’s would agree that their business is now highly dependent on Information Technology, and without it properly functioning nothing much will get accomplished. Fewer CEO’s understand the importance of IT in achieving an organization’s strategic objectives. That often […]

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RAPID decision making

February 27, 2011

About four years ago Bain consultant Paul Rogers coined the acronym RAPID – Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input and Decide- as a tool for allocating decision roles in a company. For every strategic decision, make sure the following roles and responsibilities are in place: Input. Providing relevant facts that shed light on feasibility and implications. Recommend. […]

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Doubting who to hire? Go for the lazy one

February 23, 2011

Hire the LAZY one??? Yes. German military leader Helmut von Moltke already explained why in the 19th century. According to this general there are namely 4 classifications of people: the smart, stupid, active and lazy. Some combinations of these characteristics are very desirable, others are outright dangerous. Smart & lazy Intelligent lazy people should be […]

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