“Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.”  Oliver Goldsmith.

Here at The Forge, ‘Asking’ encompasses conventional market research. It’s the world of questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews. And it’s the world of their trendier cousins such as co-creation.

These approaches allow us control over who we speak to – so we can be pretty sure we’re asking the right people. They allow us to ask exactly the questions we seek answers to. They allow us to probe and delve deeper when we hear something that piques our interest. They allow us to both understand people’s problems and frustrations, but they also allow us to explore their responses to potential solutions – new brands, new products, new services – and even to leverage people’s own creativity in this pursuit.

At its most sophisticated ‘asking’ can stretch even further. Indirect and projective techniques such as visual metaphors, storytelling and mobile ethnography allow us to access emotions and behaviours that transcend the sphere of conscious, rational response, and so enable a deeper understanding of motivations, needs and desires.

So ‘asking’ is a beautiful thing. It brings a depth and richness of understanding that nothing else can replicate.

But it’s never the whole story.

Imagine someone asks you a question. Do you:

(A) Just shrug it off without giving anything away
(B) Over-exaggerate…because everyone loves confidence
(C) Under-exaggerate…because everyone loves a bit of modesty
(D) Tell the truth

Every conversation you’ve ever had involved these choices. You made them in a split-second, intuitively, even subconsciously. You made them like every human being does.

And that’s why ‘Asking’ alone will never be enough.

Because the act of asking itself brings inherent influence. Because people often respond with answers they believe the inquisitor wants to hear. Because they often respond with answers that they believe will make them seem ‘normal’ or even admirable.

Because the act of asking forces people into a logical, rational frame of mind that is disconnected from the ‘moment’ we are asking about – asking almost always elicits a considered rather than spontaneous response.

Because people often respond with answers that rely on imperfect memory rather than an understanding of their own unconscious habitual behavior (what we say we do rather than what we actually do).

And sometimes because people just don’t know the answer to the question “Why did you?” In which case they tend to just make something up.

At The Forge ‘Ask’ is just one of our four key source areas for these reasons. For us, genuine insight comes from applying effort to multiple sources of information and forging them together to reveal true growth opportunities

Insight isn’t found. Insight is forged.

With thanks to Emilio for the image