SpokaneAMASeptember 28th is Ask a Stupid Question Day – it’s also Drink Beer Day. Perhaps because if you drink enough beer you will ask stupid questions? Just another silly “holiday,” right?

Actually, it was created by teachers in the 1980’s in a serious attempt to get students to ask more questions. Remember grade school, middle school and high school – the response when the class nerd asked a question? Ridicule and derision were the usual result. But the teachers recognized that asking questions was the key to real learning. So, Ask a Stupid Question Day was created to get students to ask these “stupid” questions and make it OK. Ask a Stupid Question Day has reportedly been observed in the United Kingdom and India according to Wikipedia.

How welcoming are you to questions? I have worked in organizations where asking questions was met by ridicule and derision and even downright hostility. This is always the sign of an insecure leadership, unwilling to accept anything that they perceive as criticism. Unfortunately, it also means that you are not likely to have real solutions to your problems. (See lesson 9 from 11 Leadership Lessons from Godzilla).

Me2 Solutions encourages Ask a Stupid Question by hosting the Spokane Ask Me Anything quarterly. And when we say Ask Me Anything, we mean ANYTHING. Usually, the questions are business related, but they don’t have to be and often we take tangents that are unexpected. And it’s fun. What does Me2 Solutions get out of hosting these sessions? Insight into what our potential customers are concerned about or interested in or confused by.

For business owners, getting people to ask you stupid questions may feel like a waste of time, but that’s usually because the person doesn’t have the knowledge or insight to ask what the real question is. That requires that you hold you annoyance in check to probe into the question until you understand what the real question is. It’s Stephen Covey’s rule: “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

What will you get out of doing so? How about real insight into potential customer needs? How much do you spend in time and money trying to develop new products or services? Won’t it be lovely if you had someone come up to you and say, “I really need this and I’ll pay for it!” You could focus your product and service development on exactly what they want, not what you think they want. Faster, more focused development. The dream of every business owner. And it can be yours for the expenditure of just a little time – the time it takes to understand what is really meant by that stupid question.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.