When listening to customers doesn’t work

The customer is not always right.

If we listened to all customers and they were all correct all the time then what we had to offer would be watered down to the lowest common denominator and would be worthless.

The other aspect of customer relationships that we sometimes get wrong is working for people who haven’t yet paid.

Customers by definition only become customers once they have agreed to exchange money for what we have to offer.

Letters of intent don’t pay the rent (thanks David McWilliam 1999).

People and companies who threaten to be customers by making promises which they do not follow through on, do not deserve to be treated as customers.

The same goes for those who were once customers but stopped paying. 

These are two cases where listening to customers doesn’t work. 

Save your uniqueness for the customers who appreciate it.

If you are running around hoping that your customers one day miraculously turn into well paying and supportive advocates for your work, something which has not happened to date, then you are possibly in an abusive relationship. 


Customers by definition only become customers once they have agreed to exchange money for what we have to offer. 











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Taking the noise out of situations

Some people add to the noise and some people reduce the noise. 

I think this is one the most endearing attributes of the people we work with. In a noisy world with many dramas, near misses and stress, the people who can remove some or all of the noise are significantly valuable. 

And the question we have to ask ourselves is, are we adding or subtracting from the noise?

Taking the noise out of situations










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The limitation of experts

Whenever we spend too much time looking for an expert. When we have an expectation that someone out there knows the subject so deeply that they will be able to advise us to make the right decision. When this happens, we are in danger of making a poor decision. 

The number of experts in the world has increased in proportion with our ability to communicate easily. Some ‘experts’ even offer courses on how to be experts. Others put themselves out as guides to the world of experts, the meta experts who help you navigate the experts. All in all we are awash with experts on any topic we can imagine.

Perhaps the growth of experts is in line with the amount of information available to us. The world appears more complex with data on just about every topic imaginable starting at wikipedia and spreading through portals, blogs, Linkedin and Twitter. Decisions appear a lot harder with so many choices. It is natural to want to find guides to help us navigate.

Unfortunately the expert guides do not have a good track record of getting their decisions right. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Philip Tetlock interviewed 284 experts  who are paid for offering advice about political and economic trends. He gathered more than 80,000 predictions over 20 years. The outcome was that these paid experts performed worse when compared to assigning equal probabilities to each of their predictions. This very serious study on the success of experts in politics and economics confirms the numerous instances where monkeys throwing darts beat professional money managers (see Forbes and Toronto’s Globe and Mail for two examples).

Listening to an expert who has spent time studying a particular area is useful. Making a decision based on the decision they would make is not. At the end of the day we are left with ourselves and our decisions. The experts provide context, we have to live with our own decisions. 

All those in favour of delagting decisions shrug your shoulders











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