Where were you when the page was blank?

When a critic complained to author Truman Capote about something he had written, his famous riposte was, “Where were you when the page was blank?”

This is a good principle to keep in mind for entrepreneurial communications. It’s far easier for people to react to and even edit something than to project their wants and desires on to a blank page.

So never ask your customers “what do you want?” Because as Henry Ford said, the answer will be, “Faster horses.”

Rather give the what’s called a forced choice: here are three options for say, importing data in our app. Which one do you prefer? Why? Please rank the three options in descending order of your preference.

The same edit vs. create principle works for internal communications: rather than criticize whomever takes the first crack at developing a document, give them credit for going first and build on what they’ve done or offer the case for an alternative. No one likes going first; going first is hard. Especially when that screen is blank.