One handy technique I learned at Microsoft was the Rude Q&A. A Rude Q&A is a list of questions you really don’t want to hear about whatever it is you’re working on, but that you force yourself to think about anyway. At worst you’ll be more prepared for difficult interviews about your work, and at best you’ll discover ways to improve the thing that you’ve made.
Why do this?
- Helps you prepare for criticism. If you do hear a tough question you want to be ready. A RQA runs you through the unpleasant things you might hear, and increases the odds you’ll handle that situation well. A good RQA raises confidence in tough meetings or presentations.
- Revision. If you have lots of good RQA questions, but don’t have good answers, it’s a red flag that your plan, design, or pitch needs more work.
When to do it
- Before Launch. When I worked on software projects, we’d write RQA for our areas before any major launch. We’d share them and discuss, and then give them to anyone who had to represent the product to the public or the press.
- Early in the project. Provided it’s treated as an exercise, rather than a product planning technique, making an RQA early can help sanity check the assumptions your team is making about the project. Doing it early makes it possible to discover a better plan or approach for the project itself.
How to create a RQA
- Ask friends who you know love to give tough feedback for their input. Some people are naturals at this task and enjoy coming up with the rudest, most confrontational questions the world has ever seen. You might be offended or hurt by what they come up with, but that’s okay – better to be offended/surprised now, in an RQA than in a demo, pitch meeting or public setting.
- Make sure to include questions that are unfair or based on erroneous, but popular, assumptions. Reporters, clients, and the public all have their share of unfair questions and erroneous information, and you want to be ready for them.
- Spend more time on the answers than the questions. The answers take more time because the responses need to be more polite and mature than the questions themselves. They also need to carefully refute assumptions in the questions without being dismissive.
[revised and edited 8-16-16]