If You Want To Learn From Someone, Offer To Teach Them

I loved this recent blog post from Steve Blank because it spoke to one of my main problems: How to decide whom to meet with:

“The meeting requests that now jump to the top of my list are the few, very smart entrepreneurs who say, “I’d like to have coffee to bounce an idea off of you and in exchange I’ll tell you all about what we learned about xx.”

This offer of teaching me something changes the agenda of the meeting from a one-way, you’re learning from me, to a two-way, we’re learning from each other.

It has another interesting consequence for those who are asking for the meeting – it forces them to think about what is it they know and what is it they have learned – and whether they can explain it to others in a way that’s both coherent and compelling.”

Steve’s strategy works on a variety of levels.  First, offering your expertise makes you stand out from the vast crowd of people who are looking for advice.  While I strongly believe that most people are egomaniacs who can’t resist the flattery of a receptive audience looking for advice, many of us are simply far too busy to say yes to all meeting requests, no matter how egotistical we might be.

The people you want to meet with usually can’t be bribed with money (they have too much) or hype (they understand that it’s all BS).  But they can be bribed with knowledge.

Second, meeting with people who value learning dramatically increases the probability that you’re talking to the right person.  You want to learn from someone who is always learning, not some egomaniac who believes he already knows all the answers.

Finally, as Steve points out, it helps you hone your own value.  (At some point, I’m going to write a full taxonomy of the “value” a particular stranger presents (important variables include money, fame, and relevance))  This will help you both with this meeting, and with future ones, and will help steer you in the right direction to leverage your particular comparative advantage.

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