One of my favorite writers in the innovation blogging world is Tim Kastelle. Tim has recently written that about managing uncertainty in the context of customer development endeavors. He advocates for speaking with people as an essential activity to reduce uncertainty. As Kastelle explains, we start with a certain relatively low perceived level of uncertainty, because we typically have some ingoing knowledge and make some assumptions and guesses and may not yet know what we don't know. However, as we start to immerse ourselves in the topic, our uncertainty rises as we begin to learn. This continues until we acquire sufficient knowledge to reduce uncertainty sufficiently to uncover desired solutions.
It occurs to me that this model may also be applied to problem solving. For instance, in a technology search effort, the first solutions I undercover typically reflect what I may already know about the area of interest, but they are also often limited by what I don't yet know. It is only by asking questions of my clients that I learn more about the nuances associated with the specific challenge. Further, by asking questions of technology providers that I initially seek out, they will frequently propose solutions that represent better fits for my clients' needs than the one(s) that inspired me to contact them in the first place.
My point is that in any learning endeavor, and particularly in external innovation, I find that the best solutions are frequently not the first ones I identify.By continuing to ask questions that increase my understanding and knowledge base, I am often able to identify (and/or are led to) different and better solutions than a less fully informed search effort might otherwise reveal.
Net, if you desire good answers to challenging questions, I suggest that you ask and continue to ask good questions of your clients and the experts in the particular field of interest. Listen carefully to their answers and iterate as necessary. Your solutions should validate the productive nature of this approach.
"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.