I am always reminded of the importance of being inquisitive vs. advocating something. This approach has helped me get to the root cause of issues. For example, I have written here before about the 5 Whys, which is a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem.– . And everyday my son reminds me of the power of the 5 whys when he askes several times in a row “Why Ba-Ba.” (He calls me Ba Ba).
Asking questions also leads to some really interesting innovations. Here’s an old story that I recent found while surfing the web (Since Hotmail is going away and being replaced by Outlook.com, I thought I would go back into the archives and read about the services history):
Hotmail originally approached us as JavaSoft, Inc., a web database tools company, and, as Business Week recounted: Sabeer and Jack went to see “Draper Fisher Jurvetson, but the investor was unimpressed by their idea for database software for the Net. As they were packing up to leave, [the VCs] asked: ‘Do you have any other ideas?’ Sabeer said they’d noodled over a scheme to offer free, advertising-supported E-mail over the Web. A week and a half later, the venture capitalists ponied up $300,000, and Hotmail was born.” (Business Week, August 25, 1997)
And recently, an insider told me a similar story about the service ClearSlide, a great sales tools that enables teams to easily share and give presentations. Sometimes a simple questions such as ‘what else have you been thinking about’ or ‘what else do you have in your bag of tricks’ can help a management team do a successful pivot and try a new approach to their business.
When I managed communities and social networks for Intuit, I used to love questions (I still do) and how they forced me to share crazy ideas, figure out some unconventional solutions and solve customers questions. So to innovate, collaborate and generate, ask the simple questions.
I know that I am mixing together two different ideas here: one about asking questions to getting to the root cause of a problem and one about asking questions to generate another idea. However, ‘asking questions’ is the common thread that’s most important.
So before you leave the room (or the social network or discussion forum), please tell me ‘one more thing..”