"Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. If all of these nuts could just make phone calls, they could spread insanity."--Jeffrey Goines (played by Brad Pitt) in the film "Twelve Monkeys"
Robin got a call from Brian, her lead developer. "We're looking at your security requirements and want to know if you want FIPS-140-1, -2, or -3." Robin's mental response was "huh?" but she recovered and said, "Let me get back to you." She's not sure what the market requires in terms of this security specification but she doesn't want to do a protracted research project.
Solution: call a friend.
Robin has an inner circle of a few product "friends" who represent her personas. The inner circle is outside of the "official" company relationships with sales and support. Because it's unofficial, the relationship lets her elicit requirements off the record without looking foolish. Because she's not selling but asking for advice, she can get an answer quickly.
An inner circle is a little bit focus group and a little bit customer advisory board. It's a small group of coaches--advisors--who will give her the straight scoop without involving or affecting the rest of the company. This group represents a market and persona that is core to your product strategy.
How do you pick advisors? Be on the lookout for those customers who are the perfect personas in your mind's eye; those who put the product's long-term health ahead of their short-term gain; those and those who you really connect with and can trust.
Always have a small group of advisors. Company presidents do it; so should you. When you need outside perspective, call a friend in your inner circle. Everything is off the record so you'll get an answer that you unlikely to get through an official channel. Not sure what to do? Call a friend.