Day27- Change Challenge

An Experiment To-Be Remembered

Aug. 31, 2016

Today I think I received one of the most fun and exciting challenges that I have been given: make the most money you can in 3 hours. The money made would be used to support scholarships for students to attend Watson University.

We were grouped into teams, and were left on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder to figure out how to make money. Each group was given $5 to invest if we wanted to buy something. Instantly, I started coming up with many different ideas. Maybe we could buy ice cream, water, or some sort of product to sell to people. Or, we could talk to customers and ask what their problems are. Then, we could offer to help them with some task.

We thought it made sense to simply “ask the customer,” but we quickly learned the customer wasn’t interested. They didn’t want help from a stranger and if they did, they didn’t know what kind of help they wanted or the kind of help we could provide.

So, our group thought, maybe asking people at the mall isn’t the best idea, and instead we could go knocking door-to-door in neighborhoods asking if they needed any work done, or speaking more directly about Watson and asking for donations. That didn’t work either. Who were we? We had no credibility.

At the end of the challenge, 30+ conversations later, I was able to raise a whopping $1. Another team, they raised over $100. DAMNN. GOSH. This sucks!

Why was I so ineffective, why could I not convince others to give money? What communication strategies did I overlook? Or what skills do I lack? After trying so hard but producing so little, I felt so inadequate.

So this is what others did that we did not: they told their stories (and offered some food). What the other scholars learned was that strangers were interested in learning about their backgrounds. Who were they? What were they doing? And why should they care? By telling their stories, the other Watson scholars were able to effectively answer these questions.

My approach on the other hand, asking customer’s about their problems and finding solutions to solve those problems, did not work. I thought that was what business was all about! Well, asking people on the streets for money in exchange for a random service isn’t quite a business, it’s a weird thing to do. People didn’t trust me. People didn’t buy me. Why? Because they didn’t know me.

This is what the others did well that I did poorly. They told their story. And they did so in such a way that communicated why their story mattered. Why their work mattered. And why the audience’s contribution mattered. By telling their stories, they became a bit more vulnerable, and in return, they were understood.

So what did I learn? Don’t simply ask people about their problems and work to solve their problems. Tell the customer who you are. Establish credibility. Communicate purpose. And give them the opportunity to join your cause.

I didn’t do a good job today, I’m disappointed, so I’m going to work on that, and try this challenge again, in a few weeks.

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