To ensure you get the kind of answers your business needs, it’s essential to interrogate your question first. To question your question. To give it a good kicking to ensure that before you even consider answering it, you are sure it’s the best possible question for you to spend your valuable mental efforts on.
These six interrogation approaches will give you confidence that the big question you want to ask will be of big value to your business.
1. Is it meaningful?
Is your question aligned to the strategic direction of the business / your department? Does it add value for the customer? Is it addressing an issue that is acknowledged within your business – or is this something that you personally have on your agenda? The more meaningful and aligned to the business aims that your question is, then the more support you will have when you identify interesting outcomes.
2. Is it pragmatic?
Are the outputs from your question likely to be within the available constraints of time, effort and money that are available to you? While you may need to request additional resources to execute the outputs – are they reasonable given the scale of the potential benefits that will be gained? And if they have to compete with other initiatives for funding, how likely is it that the answers to your question will be high enough on the agenda to be allocated those limited resources?
3. Does it help address your superior’s goals?
It’s frequently useful to ask questions that help you attain your own appraised goals for the year. But will this question (when successfully answered) also help your boss to achieve their goals? And their superior’s goals too? If so, you have a much greater chance of gaining support for your question and resources for its answers.
4. Is it within your remit to deliver?
Will the answers to this question be executed solely by you, your team, or by people under your control? If not, then potentially this question overlaps with another area of the business. To get buy-in to your eventual answers – get this other area’s involvement with your question at the start. Then subsequently, they will have greater engagement with your outputs as they were part of forming the question. If you go ahead without their involvement in the question, you risk having them disagree with your initial question when you want their participation in executing the answers.
However, if the question is entirely within your remit then you have full control over the shaping of the question and the subsequent delivery of the outputs.
5. Does it answer the ‘So what’ test?
If you address your question and find some brilliant answers to it – so what? Will it make a big difference to somebody in some way? Are key people going to want to help you with the delivery of your solutions?
If you aren’t sure this will happen – then you’ve failed the ‘so what’ test.
6. Does it put you in Querencia?
Querencia is a Spanish word associated with bull-fighting. It doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but it’s the place that the bull backs into before making its final charge. The place from which there is only one direction to go – and that’s forward.
When your question is in Querencia – when it’s shaped into a form that all involved agree and support – then there’s only one way for it to go. Forward. No distractions – for your question is ready to be answered.
If your question is open to being challenged – then address those challenges before you start to answer it – don’t try to justify your question to others through your answers.
The more people that buy-in and support your question before you answer it – then the deeper your question is sitting in Querencia.
By using these six essential checks to interrogate your questions before you answer them, you’ll save a lot of potentially wasted effort if people disagree with your question later. But more importantly, you’ll get support with the execution of the great answers you’re about to develop.
Our new guide book Boosting Executive Thinking leads you through a process which helps you ask – and creatively answer – powerful business questions. It’s in a practical workbook format and is available from Amazon here.
At Ingenious Growth we help create business and service developments through an innovative approach to framing powerful growth questions – and finding creatively-pragmatic answers to these questions.
So what’s the big question you need answers to now?
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Chris Thomason is Managing Director of Ingenious Growth, a business growth design company. He is also the author of The Delicate Force which explains what drives our ideas, inspiration and creativity. The Delicate Force is available from the Amazon online bookstore.