In 2007, the late Arthur B. (Andy) VanGundy wrote one of the seminal books of his career, Getting to Innovation: How Asking the Right Questions Generates the Great Ideas Your Company Needs.
In my career as an innovation and creativity coach, questions have always been the sine qua non of innovation and equally as important in leadership effectiveness. My guiding principle at Inotivity is that innovation isn’t simply what you know, but how you think.
One of my favorite stories comes my friend and colleague Kevin Murnane, adjunct instructor at Kellogg Graduate School of Management and founder of Behtrics.], Inc. At Kellogg, he helped design the first Leadership Coaching Class for MBAs and Executive Coaching.
We were talking about decision-making and smart questions. He told me about an executive who wanted to change careers. She wanted to leave a career in corporate America and become a professional comedian.
Together, Kevin and his client dived deep into the pros and cons of making such a dramatic change. Ultimately, the client was on the fence. Kevin looked at her and said, “I know what you are willing to give up to make this happen, tell me what you aren’t willing to give up?”
This single question cut through to the heart of how smarter decisions are made.
Recently, I read Susan Scott’s terrific book, Fierce Leadership. (By “Fierce” she doesn’t mean menacing, cruel, and threatening but rather robust, intense, and strong.)
She advises executives and managers to ask themselves four basic questions:
1. What’s the most important thing I should be talking about today?
2. What do I believe is impossible for me to do, that if were possible, would change everything?
3. If nothing changes, what are the implications?
4. What’s the conversation that has my name on it? The one I’ve been avoiding for days, weeks, months, and years? Who is it with and what is the topic? When will I have it?
Imagine what you could accomplish if you asked these questions everyday?
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