Seth Godin: We need more stupid questions

Entrepreneurs should yield to their inquisitiveness if they want to succeed, says bestselling author Seth Godin.

Godin discussed marketing with correspondent Lotta Backlund on the MTV Live Stage this morning. During the conversation Backlund remarked on the reticence of some attendees to ask what they might see as stupid questions.

“Most people have no idea what a stupid question is,” Godin responded. “They just throw out all the good questions thinking they are stupid,” he said. “We need more stupid questions.”

Godin is the author of 17 books, including Purple Cow and Tribes. He has also authored over 5,500 blog posts. For Godin, it is this pursuit of identifying market needs through questioning, rather than fashioning the perfect product, that underpins success.

“Making socks isn’t hard, putting together a TV network isn’t hard, writing software isn’t hard,” said Godin. “What’s hard is having enough culturally sensitivity to guess, and what is hard is having the guts to put something in the world we can care about.”

This is precisely why “asking stupid questions” is important, Godin said. “The only chance going forward is to figure out what people will talk about.”

Godin said that it was this inability to ask the right questions that ultimately cost Nokia in the mobile device market. Nokia, in Godin’s words, “knew how to make a smartphone, they had already made a smartphone. They just didn’t get the joke.” He said that Nokia “didn’t understand that the purpose of the phone was to connect, not that the purpose of the phone was to make a phone call.”

For Godin, businesses can therefore only benefit from indulging their curiosity. “Do you know what’s risky?” he said. “Not asking a stupid question is risky.”

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