Are you a Flat Earther?

Pop quiz time!

What shape is the planet earth?
a.   Round
b.  Flat

If you answered (b) I’m sorry but we can’t be friends.  If you answered (a), phew!

There is a dismayingly large group of people who think that the earth is flat.  They don’t believe the photos from outer space, or anything else for that matter.  The more evidence they see, the more it confirms a massive conspiracy of the “round earthers”.

The community has developed an unlikely spokesperson of sorts in the person of rapper B.o.B.

He has decided to take the unprecedented step of launching a satellite into space to take pictures of earth.  Because apparently no one has ever thought of doing that before, I guess.  He made headlines a few weeks ago when he launched a Go Fund Me campaign called  “Show BoB the curve” to raise funds for this project.

I applaud his empirical approach.  I really do.  I’m even weirdly tempted to donate money to his cause.

But I wonder.  Will he actually believe the photos when he sees them?  Or will he try to explain them some other way? it’s not like there is a lack of evidence currently that the earth is round.  I wonder if he knows that the very physics of launching a satellite is based on that fact.  He hasn’t found existing evidence to be persuasive, so will he believe his own evidence?  I’m skeptical.

When customers ask me to do customer research for them, I often encounter this kind of thinking.

Sometimes, products are created for people who don’t really exist, for problems that they don’t have.  

For example, are there really guitar teachers who want a customized platform to teach students remotely?  How many teach long distance anyways?  And can’t they just use Skype?

Are there really Human Resources managers who would like be able to streamline their document processes, but don’t mind learning a bit of XML and installing a Java development environment to do it?

Sometimes these ideas take hold in an organization, are believed very deeply, and can be hard to shake.

Sometimes teams want customer research because they really want to find out the answer to some questions, while others simply want the appearance of research.

I’ve discovered that there is an easy way to tell the difference.  It’s all in how they ask for the research.

If they say “We want to validate our idea” or “We want to show our investors that we’ve done customer research”, they are usually not open to accepting any results that contradict their deeply held views.

If they say “We would like to find out if we are on the right track” or “We’re pretty confident in our overall approach but we want to dive into the details some more” that’s usually a good sign.

These are subtle differences, but words matter.  They reveal profound differences in mindset.

So next time you are thinking about customer research, ask yourself these three important questions.  Why are you asking for it?  Will you believe the results? And What will you do with the results? 

photo credit:  Skeeze | Pixabay