What’s the drill for?

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!—Maybe.

If you want to know why some people buy drills, let’s say because your company’s success depends on your understanding of it, don’t assume; ask them directly.

As my friend1 Dan Ritz theorized, there are three layers to a productive conversation about why we use stuff:

  1. Use: what’s the drill for?Making holes.

  2. Goal: What’s the use of the holes?—Hanging family pictures on the walls.

  3. Effect: What changed now that you’ve accomplished it?—The place feels more like me!

Beyond these three layers, you step into increasing levels of abstraction and generalizations that make for great conversations, especially after a few drinks, but are not that valuable as research.


Dan doesn’t even know I exist. I’m just a fan.