Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Silhouette-question-markDuring a recent podcast, the interviewer, Fei Wu, asked me, “What is a question that other interviewers have not asked that you would like me to ask?”

I’ve never been posed that question before in over 100 interviews.

The conversation was being recorded and felt pressure to answer quickly. I was unable to process the request at a conscious level. As a result, I ended up sharing something that I have only shared with a few close friends and colleagues. This shocked me.

This question got me thinking.

Focus groups and surveys are powerful tools that innovators use to gather perspectives on their customers. Recruiters use interviews to discern more about job applicants. Friends even use a form of these to learn what other people think about them, their choices, or their personality.

Unfortunately, the way these approaches are traditionally done yield answers that are limited in value.

The reality is, people make decisions based on their subconscious beliefs, not conscious ones. And they are usually quite different. If you ask typical questions and give people time to ruminate over their responses, they will reply with what they believe to be true or what they think you want to hear. This is conscious thinking at work.

Another reason these approaches often don’t get to the heart of the matter is because the process of asking questions inadvertently “leads the witness” and biases their responses. The questions we ask impact the range of possible answers.

But what people don’t tell you may in fact be more valuable than what they tell you.

Given this, after using the approaches above, try asking one or more of the following questions:

  • What is something you are afraid to tell me?
  • What is something that you have never told anyone else that might be relevant to this conversation?
  • What is something you have not told me that you think might be valuable?
  • What is a question I did not ask that I should have asked?
  • What is a question you wish I asked that I didn’t?
  • What is something I should know that you did not tell me?
  • What is something positive (about the product, concept, idea) that you have not told me?
  • What is something negative that you have not told me?


You get the idea. Make up your own questions. Of course to ask questions like these you need to create a safe environment where people feel comfortable saying what they truly believe. No repercussions.

Use these questions with everyone: prospects, current clients, past clients, people who never bought from you (and might never), friends, family members, colleagues, your boss, co-workers, or anyone who might have a valuable insight to share to generate.

If done correctly, you will more than likely be unable to predict their response. And their reply may come as a surprise to them as well – just like when I was asked one of those questions. These are the valuable responses you want obtain because it uncovers their subconscious beliefs – the beliefs that drive behaviors.

P.S. You can listen to the two-part podcast where I am interviewed by Fei Wu here

  1. “What is something you have not told me that you think might be valuable?”
    = Novel. Simply novel.
    This article is the kind of article that changes culture.
    Thank you Stephen.

    • Thanks Robin! I appreciate your taking the time to comment. And sometimes, simplicity is the best innovation. It does not have to be complicated for it to be valuable.

      • Stephen Shapiro says:

        Great point. Another variation….when asking someone what they want…if they say they don’t know, ask them, “If you did know, what would you want?” Often this will force them to think harder and will come up with an idea by didn’t think they had.

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