How To Use Your Company’s Most Powerful Business Tool

By David Mizne

With new software applications coming out every day, technology continues to offer a solution for any business need. Slack is shifting the way teams communicate, Hackpad allows for collaborative creation, and this blog wouldn’t exist without WordPress. But the most powerful business tool was actually invented long ago and was only recently perfected through technology – it’s the question.

That’s right, questions. Just think about the most successful companies. Google began as a search engine, literally your one stop resource for any answer. Apple continues to astonish the world by asking, “how can we do _______ better?”

15Five is a software company built on questions. They are not only the central pillar of our product, but also the central pillar of the truly remarkable culture we have architected. Good questions have the power to spark innovation, avoid fire-drills, and help employees show-up as their best selves. Which is why we created our newest feature, the Question Bank.

The Power of Inquiry

It may seem silly to think that people need guidance on something as simple as asking questions. But asking a thought provoking question that sparks creativity and problem-solving takes skill. We are on a mission to teach that skill, and are undoing the damage caused by a system that kills creative thought by focusing more on answers than questions…

Good questions have the power to spark innovation, avoid fire-drills, and help employees show-up as their best selves.

According to Warren Berger author of A More Beautiful Question, a young child asks 300 questions a day. But by the time we graduate high school, that curiosity has slowed to a halt. School systems are focused on preparing students for taking tests, not on nurturing the curiosity that is so critical for entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity.

Likewise, in the business world where we are so focused on producing results, we don’t always encourage the disruptive thinking that leads to success. Questioning enables us to organize our thinking around what is true and what is false. When we go deeper into that inquiry we begin to see that what exists as “true” can be transformed, reinvented, improved-upon or even replaced.

A Wealth of Questions

“If you’re not asking the questions in a thoughtful way, you’re not going to get any results that are useful or interesting.”

~Tony Wagner, Harvard University Innovation Lab

Some questions are easy, they are little more than requests for facts:”How are things going in your role?” “What projects did you complete this week?”

Other questions are more complex because they are designed to instigate more critical thinking. They challenge the status quo, the accepted notions that keep business stagnant. To be effective the wording must be precise, even subtly so. For example, you could ask the question, “What could we be doing better as a company?” That might spark some creativity. Or you could ask, “What would you change about our company/product if you had a magic wand?”

The latter question expands the realm of possibility, allowing the responder to take a moment and get creative. Their response might seem impossible at first, but after a brainstorm or two with the development team, it could prove to be the innovative product feature that launches the company to a new level of success.

With our question bank, we take the guess-work out of asking these questions. Simply search by keyword or category and discover the right question to inform meetings, inspire creative thinking, or maintain your company culture.

Each question in the bank is tagged with a different category. Here are some examples:

  • High Performance
  • Better one-on-ones
  • Innovation
  • Culture Building
  • Learning and Development

 

 

Asking questions can improve business outcomes and even save hundreds of hours each week. The practice can boost team performance, innovation and focus. But only the right questions will inspire creativity and yield the results that managers desire. Consider what you are looking to achieve and then choose your words carefully. A well-worded, beautiful question can bring out the best in people. A poorly-worded one feels like a waste of time.

Image Credit: COD Newsroom



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