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42 is the answer

The trick to getting the right answer is to ask the right question; so often I talk to people who have come up with answers but have asked the wrong question. Indeed, they have often started with the answer and worked back to the question which gives that particular answer.

As vendors, you've probably seen this; you see an RFx and the way it has been phrased discloses a lot about the answer wanted; often, the questions are phrased in such a way that you can already see that a procurement decision is already more than 50% made. 

I'm not sure that this is a particularly solveable problem; we are all mostly human (there are exceptions) and we all carry the baggage of experience. Indeed, it is often that experience which allows us to leap to close approximations of what the right answer will be; perhaps those approximations are good enough but perhaps they will simply show that we don't understand the problem.

And of course as a vendor, if you only have one answer; you want to twist the question in such a way that your answer is right. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks a nail but even if your hammer is the best hammer in all the world and sure you could bang in a screw, at the end of the day, there will be disatisfaction with results. But if you have hundreds of different hammers and you spend hours looking for just the right hammer when another hammer would have been equally good, your customer might just pick up a rock.

Sometimes customers don't just want answers, they want solutions. This a hard thing for a hammer seller to accept; yes, you make great hammers but I want the nails, the saws, the screws, the chisels, the wood, the craftsman, the sails, the paint, the glue etc. I'm building a boat, not banging in nails. Actually, I've changed my mind; I'd rather buy the vertically integrated solution and I'm going to seeing a boat-builder.

So life is never especially simple but I think that we all could do better when phrasing questions and giving context to our answers. 

And the question which gives the answer 42? 

How old is Storagebod tomorrow?….Happy Birthday to me! 


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