The Power of Asking

Asking is an incredibly powerful tool. Here are two examples of the power of asking from this week alone – and it’s only Thursday!

Asking O’Reilly

Earlier this week I asked in a tweet if anyone knew anybody at O’Reilly Media who might be able to help me attend their annual Web 2.0 Summit, taking place November 15-17 here in San Francisco.

The event is invitation only, design to maintain an intimate feeling amongst attendees. After looking at the list of who would be attending, it became clear to me that this was something I wanted to attend – where else can you get a chance to interact with so many technology leaders, including:

In less than an hour, I received a response from Betsy, who works for O’Reilly. I emailed her with my request, and received a message from Tim O’Reilly within another hour. He told me how to contact him directly, which I did.

This is the power of asking. Asking creates opportunity for interaction that would otherwise seem impossible. By simply asking about attending the event, I was interacting directly with Tim O’Reilly – chairman of a multi-national technology company, and someone whose work I admire and respect. All by asking.

To be fair, today’s social media tools are enabling the power of asking in many new ways. It’s doubtful that I would’ve been able to walk into O’Reilly’s offices and ask my question directly, but using Twitter, I can establish that direct connection, with just as much meaning and as tangible an outcome as a personal visit.

Asking has other great properties, as well. By asking, you allow the other person to offer input. Many times the answer to your question may not be exactly what you want to hear, but it can be something you’ve never thought of. Asking forms a space for input from others that doesn’t exist without the initial question.

The other benefit of asking is the fact that you have nothing to lose by asking. If I didn’t ask to attend to Web 2.0 Summit, I surely wouldn’t have gone. Now, because I asked, I have an invitation and am working on gathering funds to attend – all because I asked.

Tweet to Tour

Later in the same week, inspired by my earlier success with the Web 2.0 SummitI asked KickLabs San Francisco, a venture-backed technology incubator, if I could drop by and see their space, while talking about the opportunities to collaborate with Syracuse University iSchool faculty and students. Asking was as simple as a writing a tweet:

@KickLabsSF Sounds like a visit and a chat is in order. Best way to get ahold of you guys outside of Twitter? Use the info@ email?

KickLabs is a joint project between an affiliate of Broe Real Estate Group of Denver and San Francisco based Transmedia Capital, and within a day I had received a response from Chris Redlitz, a General Partner at Transmedia Capital.

I’ll be visiting KickLabs next week, and am looking forward to learning more about how their incubator works and what projects they have in the pipeline.

Your Turn

This week has illustrated to me the immense power of asking, interacting directly with the people you’d like to interact with, and the value of persistence.

Now it’s your turn. If you’ve wanted to do something, go somewhere, or participate somehow, now’s the time – it’s a matter of asking.

Reach out to those who you may have been hesitant to contact, dive into those groups you’ve only watched from afar, and be receptive to those who ask of you.

After all – you’ve got nothing to lose.

Shay Colson

A 2010 iSchool graduate, Shay Colson lives and works in Seattle, Washington. He uses technology to solve problems for government, organizations, and also real, actual people. You can find him on Twitter @shaycolson.

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