The Socratic [Business] Method

Jun 27, 2013

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Socrates. Ever heard of him? If you haven’t heard of him maybe you’ve heard of his student Plato? Maybe Plato’s student Aristotle? If you haven’t heard of any of them it doesn’t matter, what they said then still applies now.

Socrates had a method of teaching, creatively named the “Socratic Method.” It included a few simple steps in order to teach someone truth. Those steps were:

1. Ask the learner to define the question or issue at hand, example, “what color is the sky?”
2. Help the learner realize through your questions and definition that they don’t really know what they thought they knew, example, “when you say sky do you mean atmosphere? Are you referring to anything that is above us? What time of day do you want to ask about? In the morning and afternoon it is often orange and red, in the day it is blue, and at night it is black. Which “sky” are you referring to?
3. Once the learner has realized they are confused begin to search for truth together.

So? Socrates’ method can be used in your basic business plan as well. Here is the modified business model:

1. Ask your client to define the process they are using.

Every business is familiar with this step. You are getting to know potential clients and looking for something, anything that can lead to potential business endeavours. Example, “I have a business that designs brochures for travel destinations, we have a team of 5 graphic designers.”

2. Help your client to realize through your questions and ideas that they don’t have everything figured out and could use your assistance.

This step is crucial. They may know they have a problem, and they may not. Regardless, if you perform this step admirably you will have their business no matter what. Example, “who edits your brochures? Is your process streamlined and organized? Have you quantified how many brochures need to be put out? Is the price of printing the brochures best done in house, or outsourced?”

3. Seek for business together.

Now that you have raised additional questions in their mind follow up with your suggestions. Example, “our company has a number of editors that are available to take on projects. In addition we have a streamlined model that we can implement in your process that will both quantify output and maximize input of income.”

Ole’ Socrates knew what he was talking about. Probably would have given Donald Trump a run for his money as well.

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