Ideas are arguably the most important output of our civilization. Asking questions can be the key to thinking about your business in new and creative ways, leading you down a path to innovation.
As children, we do this type of questioning naturally. We ask many questions. Some are fundamental, “Why are birds’ heads on top?” That type of question helps a young child categorize the massive amounts of information they are taking in daily, i.e. most animals have their heads on top. I questioned spelling as a child and even began to form a phonetic spelling of words I knew. (This was before methods like Hooked on Phonics.) This would be a process question, “Why do we spell the way we do?” As we grow into adulthood, we ask fewer and fewer questions. Why is that?
Steve Jobs would be an example of someone who never stopped questioning everything, right down to the couch. “What is the purpose of a sofa?” he would ask. And he and his wife would have very long discussions about what they wanted from a sofa. He and his wife spoke about furniture in theory for eight years. While Jobs did not revolutionize furniture design, his line of questioning often resulted in innovative products we use every day.
If you’re in turmoil, searching for those innovative ideas your company needs, questioning can be your best friend. But, questioning can seem inefficient to leaders who are busy acting and doing. Stop doing “busy” and sit yourself down outside with a coffee and a question. Live with it for 10 minutes and see where it takes you. Jot down a few notes and go on to your next task. You’ll be surprised at how answers and related ideas will jump out at you throughout the days and weeks to come.
Struggling to write your company’s mission statement? Does it end up sounding something like this? We create and manufacture the most advanced products to thought leaders…yawn, yawn, yawn. When it’s written as a statement it sounds static and past tense. Maybe it’s time to look at your Mission statement in the form of a question: How might we create and manufacture the most advanced products to thought leaders? And why would we do that? Written in question form, it’s more active and actionable, which opens up to a new realm of possibilities.
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