I love experimenting with new business ideas, most of which never go farther than a few hours of work spent on writing and sketching interfaces (when necessary). Having short-life side projects is a great way to experiment with no or low consequences, and find ideas for your main project. But that's another topic altogether.
Today, I want to tell you about what began as an attempt to find a new business idea but ended up being an original way to get to know my friends better.

About a year ago, I was lying down on my couch, thinking about a product idea that had been on my mind for quite a long time. I wanted to build something to help people learn anything they wanted. A platform or a software where one could track his progress, share the challenges you face, and find help from the community or ask experts for advice. I liked this "maybe good but still fuzzy" idea.

I started reflecting on the information I lacked but were needed to develop this project further and began to ask myself different questions. What kinds of things did people wanted to learn? Which disciplines did they want to master? What was stopping them from doing it? I thought the definition of the product could be lying under the answers to those questions.

Eager to find that out, I grabbed my phone that was lying on the cold radiator and texted a pal of mine.

  • "Give me three things you would love to learn. Could be anything."

The three dots indicator popped up right away and the answer came in a just few seconds later.

Four question marks.

  • "In a world without constraints, what would you love to learn? For me, it would be philosophy, how to be a better drummer.. See?" I added.

  • "Oh! Well, I've always wanted to learn coding, play the bass, ... and how to build a wood cabin."

Wait. What? That was unexpected! I would never have imagined that. Seriously, a wood cabin? This was a huge surprise since I've always considered my friend as an urban guy. He's working in the IT industry. Who could have guessed that he secretly wanted to play in the forest with a saw, a handful of nails and a hammer? Open-mouthed, I almost forgot about a product-oriented follow up question.

  • "What is holding you back from doing it?" I bounced.

The answer to this wasn't quite as surprising: time, motivation and money. Time and motivation might have been the most common answers my friends gave me during this "market research."

But after this first conversation, I didn't care so much about a possible product or business anymore. However, I was super enthusiastic about this absolutely original way of discovering what my friends secretly wanted to become.

So I kept asking this very simple question over and over again, always by text message, to my entourage. Fancy knowing your friends better? Ask them the three things they always wanted to learn.