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Steve Jobs’ Secret for Eliciting Questions, Overheard at a San Francisco Cafe

Don’t just ask, “Any questions?”

Tell me what’s not working at Pixar.

Famous CEO continued: “That person might offer something like, ‘The design team isn’t open to new technology we’re building.’ Jobs would ask others if they agreed. He would then choose someone else and say:

Tell me what’s working at Pixar.

According to Famous CEO, Jobs would alternate between the two questions until he felt like he had a handle on what was going on.

What is the thing I made most confusing today?

I worded it like this to position any confusion as my failing, not my audience’s inability to understand. I was also careful not to phrase it as a “yes-no” question (“Did I make anything confusing?”), which might have been more likely to elicit a polite “no.”

I guess that’s because I’m still figuring it out, too.

The woman smiled, and her classmates seemed relieved. What I learned that day was how it puts my audiences at ease when I make a point to say how hard this stuff is (very), and how long it usually takes for most people to feel like they’ve landed on the right story (weeks, months, years).



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