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Reblogged:Book Preview: The Mom Test

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When I first saw the Hacker News thread titled "The Mom Test -- How to Talk to Customers," I figured it might have something to do with empathy. Think: Would you speak to your mother that way?

Well, no, I wouldn't, but I'm always looking for advice that might improve my communication skills, so I looked and discovered first that I was wrong.

That's because the discussion thread had truncated the subtitle of the book under discussion: The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you.

I remained intrigued, and quickly found a link to a summary of the book. I especially appreciated the following:
Image by Sergiu Vălenaș, via Unsplash, license.
[This] is a book with the aim of improving your customer conversations and getting real learnings out of them! The idea behind the title is that you shouldn't ask your mum if your idea is a good idea because she will lie to you. Like you will learn in this book most people will lie to you, not even with evil intent. Unfortunately, this will not help you with validating your idea.

The book tries to teach you how to get out of these lies and start a conversation where you actually learn something. The main takeaway is to validate the problem and not the idea. Start conversations that focus purely on the customer's life and the problem. [bold added]
(I'm not sure my mother would lie like this, but I know plenty of people would...)

This may sound vaguely familiar to regulars here. This approach sounds, at least to my ear, a bit like Alex Epstein's Clarity Tool, although focused on the problem of starting a business. The Clarity Tool is in part a way to wrap one's mind around the concerns (good or bad) and premises (good, mixed, and bad) of a target audience.

That said, the author's own book page states:
The world doesn't need another framework or theory. The Mom Test skips all that and gets to the hands-on challenges. How to avoid biased feedback? How to write an email that makes people want to talk to you? How to figure out whether someone is really going to buy? It's all in here.
It is a common (but understandable!) mistake these days to discount the need for a theoretical undergirding. This won't necessarily make the book valueless: Everyone operates on implicit philosophical premises, and the author's clear goals and experience have a very good chance of making this book worthwhile.

And I think it will be more so to people who do have a framework for understanding how communication works, so this disclaimer isn't going to put me off. This seems like at least a collection of different examples to consider against what I know. In other words, I suspect -- not having read the book -- that pairing it with the Clarity Tool and other communication advice from Epstein and other Objectivsists could be quite valuable.

It's not every day I bump into a discussion of a book and leave seriously contemplating a purchase, but that has happened today.

If you're here and you happen to have read this, let me know what you think.

-- CAV

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