Affirmation vs. Validation

Has a budding entrepreneur ever asked you what you thought of his/her business idea? How many times has someone told you that they have a business idea and that “everyone I talk to thinks it’s a home run!” One step further, have you ever heard a would-be entrepreneur tell you, speaking of marketplace intelligence, that “I already checked and noone has done it yet…”?
If you’re like me, you get this type of conversation quite a bit. I often sense, though, that the person behind the idea is usually looking for encouragement and affirmation, not authentic validation. If I started a business tomorrow I think the first thing I would ask a trusted handful of advisors is not if they like the idea but to tell me what’s wrong with the idea. This applies to bricks-and-mortar start-ups, Web ventures, and even Web 2.0 ventures that seem to be catching all the buzz as of late. My thinking is that most folks are going to be reluctant toward giving you the honest scoop (especially if it’s potentially negative or deflating) unless you directly ask them to.
One side note to this, which I read recently (but can’t remember where), think about the following contrast when surveying your customers:
a. Are you satisfied with our services?
b. If we lost your business tomorrow, what would be the reason why?