Great Leaders Ask the Right Questions to Drive Change

 

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

-Marcel Proust

There is a simple formula that leaders follow when they put their thinking caps on. It may not be conscious in many circumstances, but it’s there.

The formula is a thoughtful question, asked of the right audience, followed by active listening. Three parts!

It’s no surprise that discovery starts with a question. It’s been that way in all the sciences from the time we first began thinking. It has followed us from the beginning to form our understandings and to leverage our opportunities.

 

 

Amber Rae is an author and artist. She was stumped as to what her next project might be and decided to leave the studio and head out to the streets with a couple of questions in her head. She approached strangers in New York and asked; “What are your greatest fears, your biggest aspirations and what kind of world would you want to live in?” She was shocked at the response. People shared everything! They laughed and they cried in their answers. The most common response; No one has ever asked me that before. 

This simple exercise led to a creative explosion and a piece of installation art on the streets of New York in 2014. It was a participatory piece and asked people to answer two questions:

·     I want to live in a world where. .. . . .

·     To create this world I will …….

It’s now a global movement. A thoughtful question asked of the right audience and actively listened to.

 

 

This is the 50th anniversary of McDonald’s stalwart burger, The Big Mac. It’s estimated they sell about 550 million every year in the US alone. The Economist, a weekly magazine/newspaper/website uses the Big Mac as an economic measuring tool as a way of measuring global purchasing power!

Its beginnings were the result of a humble question, asked of the right audience and listened to in an effort to discover an answer.

In 1968 McDonalds franchisee, Jim Delligatti, asked corporate if he could try a new burger idea. Though not in the habit of accepting new menu products from anywhere but headquarters, they listened to the research, they understood the audience, and the rest became burger history. But it’s not the only McDonald’s product that resulted from this question, audience and listen formula. You can add beloved menu items like the Filet-O-Fish, the Egg McMuffin, the Apple Pie and the Shamrock Shake to this three-part process.

The idea and its application are simple. In our program THE IDEA FACTORY we use this exercise with our clients:

Take the issue you are working on and invite a team of 3-7 people,  to create ten questions that challenge the issue. Questions like, why now? Where will the resources come from? Is this something that will differentiate us in our market?   From their ten questions, use thoughtful reduction to narrow each team members questions to only 3 (from 10 to 3). Within that grouping, you are searching for the three most important questions that will clarify your goal.

This is the application of the thinking questions, the right audience and, in order to thoughtfully reduce to the holy grail of 3 key questions you have to actively listen.

Who knows, maybe there’s a Big Mac waiting!

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