You Won’t Get Answers, But You Need Questions

Photo Credit: Bilal Kamoon on Flickr

Photo Credit: Bilal Kamoon on Flickr

I once used the phrase “(Social media ‘guru’ name here) is Not Smarter Than You” in a blog post as a way of encouraging folks to create their own content and get their own thoughts out there, rather than be intimidated by those whose credentials are largely made up of starting to blog before you did.

I still believe that you, or I, are no less smart or able than the marketing consultants and – ugh- “gurus” who show up frequently on industry podcasts, blogs and webinars. Why are they there and you are not? It likely has more to do with the need to hustle and stay visible to get consulting clients and the like than much else (ok, ego too- why not?). You probably daily see a podcast or event panel, see names of “industry leaders” attached to the, and think “those people are smarter and know more about the business than me.” If that were really true, why would you bother?

Here is why you should still bother:

This is not about cutting down people because they are good at self-promotion – it is, however, about the rest of us believing in our own abilities to strategize, consult, execute and think on issues.

This is about figuring out how to listen critically and still learn from anybody rather than considering it a waste of time to pursue industry reading and listening from people who, in reality, are your peers.

This is about valuing the questions, and not (necessarily) the answers. I reminded myself of this recently as I listened to an episode of the marketing/advertising podcast Beancast, a weekly panel hosted by Bob Knorpp I don’t always listen through depending on what is going on early in my week, but the most recent episode had a segment on “Tackling Anemic Organic Engagement” that I thought would be relevant to my own current thinking and work. So I listened- were the answers enlightening? Some yes, some no – none were bad that I can recall, but I was struck by the questions: first some that I was thinking of and hoped would get asked, then by others I hadn’t thought of.

It wasn’t the answers I needed. It was the new questions. 

So it’s ok to think you’re smarter than as smart as everyone else; it doesn’t even matter if you’re wrong about that; it also doesn’t mean you can’t learn.


  1. Tinu Abayomi-Paul

    It’s always been my policy to question everyone and everything, and to trust data above everything- this is my advice even to my own clients about me.

    We bought into trusting so-called expertise, as a society, long before the web. But at that time, there were some checks and balances put into place such as credentials you could check, or talking to their other customers. But the problem with that is that the experts we trusted began to be trusted beyond reproach. Think doctors, mechanics… we couldn’t do certain things ourselves, nor did we learn enough about what we needed/wanted from them to know if we were being shafted.

    Enter the web at some point, and products that teach you how to leverage your knowledge to hustle new business.

    Now I respect hustle, and in marketing, the fact that someone hustled better than I did is at least one good reason why they’re in front of the room at a conference and I’m not. If I need someone to help more people hear about me, I want someone who has proven that they can do it.

    BUT, no one gets a dime of my money if they can’t put up or shut up. The only way you can do that, is to know enough to be dangerous. Study enough to be able to test their knowledge, to put them on the spot with a tough question, to see if they know who their peers are in their industry and why they’re better for whatever job you have in mind than them.

    We used to do that, before we started to deify the experts. And we can do it again, by, as you said, being our own experts first.

  2. Doug Haslam

    “Deify the experts.” Yeah, that’s exactly what I try not to do. If we really did that none of us should bother. And that’s not a knock on “experts,” whether they call themselves that or not.

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