The questions we turn our attention to can have a profound impact on innovation. Think of questions as the parents of answers: they will serve as a creative catalyst for innovation. Immersing your team for an entire day in a chunky question could set them free from the shackles of conventional thinking and take them down the path of creating something altogether novel. Here are some big questions to consider:
1. What if clean water eventually becomes as scarce as oil? How would it affect categories such as tooth brushing, laundry care, medications or your products?
2. What do fixed-income consumers in the US and low-income consumers in developing markets have in common? How would your product have to change to compete at a significantly lower price point?
3. What if the transportation costs to ship goods quadrupled? How could you make your products lighter?
4. What would you have to do to make 10% more people fall in love with your product or brand?
5. What do you need to do to double the size of your business? (Every business leader should have a point of view on this one)
By asking provocative questions you can reframe problems and uncover new and better solutions. Let’s consider the first question above on the scarcity of water. The team at Xeros addressed this question and created a washing machine that uses tiny nylon polymer beads instead of water to remove stains. It uses 90% less water than conventional washing machines. Sometimes taking an element away from a product or a category forces new combinations and ideas to close the gap and compensate for the missing element.
Whole new businesses have been created out of juicy provocative questions. Foursquare is the result of asking, “What if we could somehow crowd source everything a city has to offer? Quora is the result of asking, “What if we could get any question immediately answered by the world’s smartest people”. You can pick any question and simply explore the possibilities for a day. It will dial up curiosity and excite team members to take a time out from the everyday demands and think in new ways around a single question.
This is important because when business teams stare at the same questions over and over again it becomes hard to come up with fresh ideas. Thought-provoking questions like, “What would it take to get 10% more people to fall in love with your brand?” is worth a day of intense focus to dig in and think through what is driving an emotional attachment to your brand and how to expand the affection connections to new customers.
Just one day in an immersion is all you need to think differently. Ask a provocative question and see where it leads. You may be surprised.
imagecredit:arzamas & businessinsider
Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive.