Idea Juggling

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During my most recent talk at a local Meetup group, I was asked how I go about getting information that I want during an interview. For example, imagine you are in a meeting with a partner company who you share some but not all information with and you want to know how what their marketing strategy will be for this upcoming year surrounding your products. In this scenario, it’s not a ‘secret’ but the partner company is generally less than forthcoming when you talk to them and you want to make sure they are not dropping your products. On the flip side, you are pretty sure they want to know about your rumored latest product that actually is a company secret. How do you handle this?

Many young adults who are at an event around others they are attracted to develop a one-track-mind. It doesn’t matter what the small talk is or what is happening at the event, some only have a single thought at the top of their mind and everything seems to circle back to that. The idea we are going for in our above scenario is to keep two or three ideas at the top of your mind that you want to keep circling back to. The concept of ‘juggling’ is to not make it as obvious by holding these thoughts directly in front of you like the single thought of the young adult, but to metaphorically toss them in the air, apparently forgetting them, only for them to fall back in front of you to grasp again. When you are juggling three balls, the majority of time the balls are in the air and not in your hands. But they are always there where you can see them and reach them easily. Extending this metaphor to the young adult, our one-track-minder would be continuously holding their ball in front of them the entire time.

Back to the scenario; how do you apply this? Let the conversation occur naturally and don’t just keep asking ‘what does your marketing look like this year?’ over and over like the one-track-mind person. Instead, bring up the idea a few times at most as the best opportunities come around. You also might want to approach the idea indirectly with something like “We had some ideas about showcasing some of our products latest features and wanted to get your take on it.”

You really need to practice. Find ways to get into conversations with strangers and practice finding out a few things while you listen intently. Find someone at your kid’s sports practice, talk to someone in line at the coffee shop, whatever. Practice starting up conversations, finding out something interesting from the other person, quickly select something you’d like to know more about (where they have worked in the past, their favorite movies, whatever), and practice juggling it into the conversation. Slowly start adding in more ‘idea balls’ over time until you can successfully get a two to three idea balls into most of your conversations. If you work at a company that conducts interviews with new candidates this is a really good place to practice this skill, assuming you can get on the interview team. A few other helpful tips are to be genuinely interested in the other person and what they have to say, and try to let them do most of the talking by prompting them with more questions. More next time.