“It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to show us the truth. It’s our responsibility to find it. We do that by asking good questions.” – Rob Fitzpatrick
The best way to think about The Mom Test (Amazon) is as a field manual for JTBD. Bob Moesta explains that JTBD is the balance of supply-side innovation and demand-side innovation. It is the innovation balance between what we can build and what the customers want.
Often innovation is unbalanced, oriented more from the supply side. One way to judge is the language. Is a product or service explained in the company language or the consumer language?
Oooooohhhhh. Got it. So just ask customers what they like and change it!
Fitzpatrick’s book guides the shift from supply-focused to demand-focused. It’s an informational puzzle.
To shift, an organization must focus on good questions. Fitzpatrick dubs good questions “The Mom Test”. If a question is so good even your mom answers truthfully it’s a good question. Failed startups often failed The Mom Test. Yes, our friends say, that’s a great idea.
Good questions find signal in the noise, which comes in different flavors.
- Social context. People will be nice, so questions must be precise.
- Vague questions. Good questions focus on behaviors. Show me your calendar and checkbook types.
- Lack of listening. Take a page from Chris Voss and reply with sounds like, looks like, and seems like.
Good questions focus on aspects of a person’s life, not ideas about a product.
One difference between Fitzpatrick and Moesta is the structure of these question-and-answer sessions. Moesta tells his interviewees to think of it as background for a documentary. He reduces the stakes and that leads to a better signal. Fitzpatrick suggests reducing the stake further. Any conversation can include The Mom Test. If you want specific conversations Fitzpatrick has advice for that too.
To see if The Mom Test helps every conversation leads to a next step. There are no good or bad meetings, writes Rob, only successes or failures.
A good examiner will get out of their own way. “You’re searching for the truth not trying to be right.”