Little Phil and the Question Farmers

March 24, 2021

When I was a kid, my family called me ‘Little Phil.’

I didn’t like that one bit. No. Not one bit. 

But now I’m happy if a family member calls me that. Go figure.

Another thing I didn’t like as a kid: my mom constantly prodding me to ask for help. You know how that turned out. Go figure.


This week a long time member reached out to me. 

He’s a senior leader in a private equity backed company and he’s negotiating an expanded role. He needed some help figuring out how to structure the new role and wanted to know if we could find some folks who could help.

But here’s the thing that made me jump out of my seat: he reached out on his own to ask for help.

If that sounds trivial, keep in mind that 99% of the Peer Coaching Calls, Council meeting topics, and requests for help like the one above come from our question farming activities. 

Yes, that’s right. We are proud question farmers.

Your Council moderator speaks to you one-on-one twice a year. I speak to you one-on-one once a year. And all of everything else we do – our council meetings, roundtables, talks, my 1:1 coaching calls, and other sessions – is designed, in part, to help bring out your questions.

Don’t worry about us. We love question farming and we will always be doing it because research shows that at least 50% of your questions are latent. You don’t know you have those questions until we ask and probe and create a context for you to think out loud. 

For the other 50% of your questions, however, it’s our mission to help you reach out on your own volition.

In fact, the percent of time you reach out on your own is the most important metric we track (and the most important long-term impact of your council membership).

So, yes, we all know how the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. Some of us have been working 20 hours a day because of that. 

But it’s also done something else. 

COVID has accelerated the asking for help transformation. 

You need help more than ever and you are asking for it more than ever.

And we see it in our numbers – the change is significant.

In fact, you are proactively reaching out to ask for help more than you have ever done in the nearly 20 years since this community started.

One of the things that made my mom — Chic to her friends and family — the happiest was when she saw people asking for help on their own without extra prodding. On the few occasions when Little Phil actually asked for help on his own, she’d give him (me) a radiant smile. Now I know how she felt.

So on behalf of Chic and Little Phil and all of us question farmers here at CG today, thank you. 

Yes, we will keep farming and cultivating questions. It’s our job. And we love it.

All we ask is that you also keep this transformation going and keep asking for help more.



P.S. Here’s a tip that Chic taught Little Phil: you can ask for help even if you aren’t sure what your question is. Yes, that’s right. You can ask for help in asking for help. 

Hire Summer Interns

We now have our simple Google Sheet up

It shows both young people looking for summer internships. *and* summer internships.

Please go hire the children of your fellow members. 

And if you have more job openings, then just respond to this email with the appropriate information as per below!

Internship Information

– Company name     
– Internship description    
– Application process url (or notes on how to apply)
– Anything else

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,
    Talk Type: Product; Skill Builder/Practitioner
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Jobs To Be Done has proven to be an effective methodology for building much better holistic end-to-end products and customer experiences.

    *But* CG Council member companies with large distributed environments are finding it difficult to apply JTBD in effective ways.

    Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, and a global expert on JTBD will come and speak to the Councils community on this specific challenge of using the methodology in large, complex technology environments.
  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork
    Talk Type: Product
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.

    The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.

    Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 
  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
    Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group
    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio: Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

Post navigation
Scroll to top