There are stupid questions and there are questions that indicate the questioner is not that knowledgeable in an area in which they should already be knowledgeable. In both scenarios, the questioner still needs to learn. But our human egos are so powerful they keep most audience members (except the guy that always knows it all) silent. I see this when I teach classes and when I take classes. People are scared of embarrassment. They are afraid of their boss discovering their deficit. They are afraid of competitors taking advantage of them. All these fears are 100% legitimate.
However, taking the chance and asking that stupid question, even if embarrassed with the answer, is sometimes the best avenue. Here is a real example. A producer asked a coverage question in a meeting I was attending. He really should have known the answer. As soon as another person, gently, but firmly, explained, he turned red. He knew he should have known the coverage better. He did not say another word the entire remaining two hours. He was mad. He was embarrassed. He was frustrated, humbled, somewhat humiliated and absolutely did not go home that night tell his wife what a great day he’d had. He did not even want to go to work the next day.
Fast forward a few months. His wounds had healed but a scar remained and so did his new found coverage knowledge. A situation arose in which a few million dollars was at stake relative to whether a prospective customer had the correct coverage. The incumbent agent swore he understood the applicable coverage. This producer identified the coverage gap quickly and easily – it was what he had asked about. The embarrassment had branded all aspects of that coverage into his brain permanently.
He understood why he had had difficulty understanding the nuances and figured the prospect probably was having an even more difficult time comprehending the details and why a coverage gap existed. He then took time to craft an explanation based on his own “stupid question.” He won the account, gained status as the coverage guru, and helped his client sleep better. That stupid question won him a large account!
This is a great story, and completely true with a few details obscured. I hope he continues to ask his “stupid” questions because he has proven he uses the results constructively.
The counter example that I see all too often involves the producer who will not ask, but does not know, and will not take a proactive approach to otherwise learning the coverage. This comes out in E&O cases. Insurance coverages are complex. One can never know it all because “all” is infinite. The only good approach then is constructive inquiry, in a safe environment, even if it means putting one’s ego at risk. Do you have the guts to raise your hand in your next class? I hope so.
NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.