“The best kind of feedback you can get is when you hear a definitive no.” That’s what Mike Kirkup, the director of Velocity Garage and one of the mentors for FamilyTales, told me, Ali and Beatrice. We were talking about pricing. We finally got someone to pay us $100 for subscription for our startup FamilyTales. Kirkup was telling us that we should have kept raising the price to see at what point the person would say no to.
The problem is that people are afraid of ‘no’. It’s negative. It’s uncomfortable. It’s discouraging. We avoid the word “no” as many times as possible. As entrepreneurs, startup founders and type-A leaders, we pride ourselves in being able to convince most people to say ‘yes’ – whether it’s getting into a startup incubator, getting funding from investors or even simply getting a girl or a guy’s phone number at the bar.
The problem with getting ‘yes’ all the time is that you can end up with a false positive. You start drinking your own kool aid. Maybe you’re saying ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ (no, that’s not sexual in any way) all the way to the edge of the cliff to your and your startup’s death.
Nothing highlights this more than in one of my classes at Ivey MBA. Professor Mark Vanderbosch showed the following numbers and asked us to guess what the pattern was – 2, 4, 6. He also instructed us that he can only say “yes” or “no” whether numbers we said fit into the pattern. Of course, being a mathematics grad from University of Waterloo, I guessed “8″, “10″, “12 ” and “14.” Vanderbosch said yes. “This is easy. The pattern is even numbers,” I said. Vanderbosch told me that I was absolutely wrong. Red-faced, I stuck my head under my desk. Then Chris, one of my classmates, said 1.3, 11, 100.3212 and 9.9, all of which Vanderbosch said yes to. Chris went on to guess, -1.1, -30, -31, all of which Vanderbosch said no. The pattern was any positive numbers. I was completely wrong!
The morale of the story is that you haven’t learned anything until you hear a ‘no.’ You might be leading yourself to the wrong path and finding patterns where there really isn’t. That’s the power of the ‘no.’ Don’t stop asking question until you hear a no.