It could be my office but just as well, it could be yours. This isn't about throwing annoying colleagues or employees out of my office. It's about meeting partners and customers. It's about leaving the safety of your desk and meeting the people who buy your product or help you do whatever it is you do at your job. It's further about the harsh reality of having potential users or partners tell you that your product sucks. Most of the time, doing online surveys or speaking via phone or Skype, you get politically correct feedback. Seeing body language and sitting across from customers or partners tells a far clearer story.
Since having started building products again instead of investing in companies, nothing has paid off more than speaking to users. The harsh reality of product development is that "build it and they will come" just doesn't work anymore. Not only do you have to know what your customers want but you also have to make sure they find it. The feedback you get when speaking with folks directly is invaluable in terms of first building the product, but second also in how to market it to your target audience. People will not only tell you happily what their problems are but also how you can get their attention. I don't care how smart you think you are and you also aren't Steve Jobs. You won't tell your customer what he needs....this he or she will decide for themselves. At most, you can figure out what their problems are, build something that solves them and then ask their permission to sell ito them.
The same goes for partners. Get to them and sit together. Ask them about working together and how to optimize things. Once initial progress has taken place, get out of the f%&king office and go see them again. Say hello and ask what else can be done to optimize things. Don't get lazy and do everything remotely. As great as the modern world is with Skype, video conferencing, email, IM, Twitter and so forth, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Every second company is trying to streamline costs by optimizing and automating the process of "working together". You know what though? The best entrepreneurs will always continue to have their ear on the ground and will interact directly. They wouldn't dare gauge where they will invest years of their time and potenitally millions of dollars without getting out and about.
If you haven't bailed on this post by this point, I'm glad you stuck with me. Although that which I write above is nothing new and has been posted in a million different variations, it bears repeating. I'll do so because I see it in my office. People, including myself, get lazy and comfortable or even worse, are scared to go stand in a mall and basically walk up to people and ask their opinion. They see researching one more thing online as more important than getting feedback directly, harshly, and honestly.
We're all extremely diligent when it comes to researching things online but we're getting worse and worse at interacting directly with people. Everyone talks about how private, social lives are being skewed by interaction via Facebook, Twitter and so forth. Guys are becoming total wimps and can't even hit on girls because they are introverts. Gaming has people sitting at home alone instead of out doing sports with friends, or whatever. You've read all the stories just as I have. Well, the same now goes for the work environment. We're getting comfortable doing everything online and remotely. We're anti-social as founders, employees or managers. We prefer to sit in an office and stare at the monitor instead of being emerged in our target users. We call or chat but we don't meet. Let's change that!