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The questions you ask say everything about you

Mudassir Mustafa
Mudassir Mustafa
2 min read
The questions you ask say everything about you

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As far back as I remember, I think my memory goes back to the early 2000s when I was in school and not doing anything productive, I am hearing ‘No questions are bad questions.’ And I get it. I mean yeah, you would like to encourage people to ask questions so they can come out of their shells and feel more comfortable - totally agreed!

However, now I see the same sentence being thrown around in team meetings and whatnot. And I kind of get that too but not 100%. A few ago I came across Mark Cuban’s video - yes, that Shark Tank guy, and yes that Dallas Mavericks guy. In an interview he was asked about the same thing ‘What sort of questions do people usually ask you?’ and he came back with the reply saying the questions they are asking tells everything about the person. And I agreed! So, had to write a small post on that.

I'm in product management for years now. And the most important phase of the product is product discovery. If I have to tell you about it in a single sentence it would ‘ask questions to understand the problem’ before moving on to the solution. In the realm of product management the better questions you ask the better solutions you will come up with. That goes for a client project or the company you are working in.

In my experience, I have led product teams with dozens of developers and designers. I think the pressure of solving a problem often belittles our ability to understand the question comprehensively before diving into the solution. It kind of becomes our second nature to jump to the solution part - maybe that's the most fun part about product management and that's what keeps us all so interesting.

A lot of the time I have seen people asking stupid questions, not because they don't know the problem at hand but a really stupid question. While sometimes these things are tolerated in others such questions are not entertained.

Here’s a drill-down of the approach I use to make sure I am asking the right question:

  • Atomic Habit - I have built this habit of asking people questions about their problems. Like ‘what problem are we going to solve?’ ‘how do you think we can improve the life of the user?’ ‘would any this feature are we improving the customer’s experience?’ so on and forth.
  • Not jumping to a conclusion - It is easy to start thinking about the solution right away. But, building on the same point as above, I usually try to keep the focus on the problem and while my innate ability to solve problems pushes me to start thinking about solutions, I abstain from it. It's the problem we need to focus on.
  • Intriguing - Keep the conversations intriguing. Try to engage the user more and pick their brains. This will help you understand the problems better and obviously, the solutions will be much better too.
  • Homework - Another small habit that I have developed is of doing homework. Not the school homework coz I hated that but the actual homework. Before going to any client meeting, VC pitch, team meeting, or any other meeting for that matter I do take a little time to gather my thoughts and make sure my ADHD is not an excuse here.

If you think you are having trouble defining the right question or finding the right problem, let's discuss that over a cup of coffee and I'll walk you through how systematically I do it, every day.

Mudassir Mustafa Twitter

I help entrepreneurs and business leaders launch their products and reduce the chaos through building high performance teams and proven product management techniques.