What if your questions could change the world, its people and its communities?
In an uncertain world decisiveness is needed and yet great nations, companies and people come about because of the questions they’ve asked and the answers that came from them.
Think Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Google and even George Washington’s founding of the United States.
You have to have the bravery to ask the hard questions and answer them with skill, drive or force.
Here are five reasons why questions are vital to creating lasting organizations and awesome people.
1. Questions Counter “Yes” Man Thinking
Instead of just saying going along with whatever’s said you question authority and even yourself.
You have to question what it means to do things as they are.
As Polly LaBarre writes in a November 10, 2011 article, “The Question That Will Change your Organization” in Harvard Business Review:
As Vineet Nayar, CEO of the $3.5 billion global IT services firm, HCL Technologies, puts it: “The CEO should be the Chief Question Asker, not the final provider of answers.” He keeps a list of twenty questions and makes time to think about them on a regular (almost daily) basis.
- Should people who create value be governed by people who control it?
- What things do I control that I should not control?
- Could we throw out the entire company rulebook?
- Would my children (or my employees’ children) want to work in a company like mine?
- What would happen if there was no CEO at my company (or at any company in the world)?
Kill the idea that management knows best.
Even if you’re the manager.
When employees and team members give feedback ask them what else could be improved.
Ask them why they said what they did.
Ask them to be honest and hold nothing against them to get truthful answers.
2. Questions Get to the Heart of the Problem
Questions help you find the real problem and the needed solution.
Whether its employees, customers or partners questions show that you care about what they think.
At the same time you learn about what they really care about and how to alter your strategy to benefit both them and you.
A good resource is Secrets of Question-Based Selling: How the Most Powerful Tool in Business Can Double Your Sales Results for example.
3. Questions Drive Creativity and Change
Questions force you to think about change.
And then to make it happen.
Polly provides another great example:
That was certainly true for Jane Harper, who spent a nearly 30-year career at IBM asking the kinds of questions most people don’t want to touch. In 1999, she dared to ask: “Why would really great people — the best technical and managerial talent in the world — want to come work at IBM?” … Harper understood that great people want to work on exciting, high-impact projects, with a small team, in a dynamic setting. So she created exactly that in a Cambridge, Massachusetts lab and launched a wholly original and powerfully effective internship program called Extreme Blue, which has since grown into a thriving platform for innovation and talent development.
Other great examples of innovation driven by questions like “What if” include these social enterprises.
If you want ideas for questions that drive change see Appendix A: SCAMPER.
4. Questions Are the Key to Self Improvement
Great organizations are made up of great people.
Helping team members, employees and managers ask better questions also helps push themselves further.
Ask: ”How can I improve xyz?”
If you help them answer questions like that with respect and patience then you’re building a community that is more than a match for the competition.
This is the way to build up skills and loyalty within organizations.
5. Questions Change Domination to Cooperation
The world is too complex and chaotic for any one person to have all the answers.
Admit you don’t know everything.
Instead ask others for help – anyway, people will like you more if you do.
It also gets buy in and engages people instead of turning them away.
You create a culture where everyone helps to keep it alive.
Polly uses the famous example of Zappos:
Questions create conversations — and those conversations are how thriving groups think up their future together and stay true to their core. One enduring and powerful question at the heart of Zappos is: “How do we sustain this culture as we grow? How do we stay true to the core and inspire ever more creativity and energy to tackle the future?” That question is actively explored across the organization and even results in a book — the annual Culture Book — which features the “true feelings, thoughts, and opinions of the employees,” who view themselves as vital custodians of that culture.
Instead of commands and accusations you create respect and open communication about what really matters.
This is different than just following along with what one person thinks and being sidelined.
Those are five reasons why questions are so important to creating amazing organizations and people.
Continually asking questions will force all of us to ask even better questions about our organizations, ourselves and our place in the world.
So what questions will you ask yourself, your team members and your organization?
And will you act on the answers regardless of the challenge?
Appendix A: SCAMPER
SCAMPER is a way to get creative with a checklist of questions.
It assumes that everything new comes from changing something old.
SCAMPER stands for:
S = Substitute
C = Combine
A = Adapt
M = Magnify
P = Put to Other Uses
E = Eliminate (or Minify)
R = Rearrange (or Reverse)
To use SCAMPER you have to write down the problem you want to solve.
Then you use the checklist to come up with questions.
An example question might be:
“How can I increase customer loyalty?”
Using the checklist above it might look like:
S = What can I use instead in my customer emails?
C = Can I combine fast shipping and contents?
A = What can I learn from someone else’s loyalty program that I could use?
M = What can I focus on that customers would care more about?
P = How can I put customer loyalty to other uses?
E = What can I get rid of in my customer loyalty plans?
R = How can I change, reverse or re-order the way I manage customer loyalty?
Thinking like this helps you to look at a problem in different ways.
(Above Photo via HeartMath: woman in a group)Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.