“Is there another way of doing this?”
If this question weren’t asked, new and cutting-edge concepts would never be created. They only get developed after someone has looked at an existing situation and asked, “What if…?”
Failing to ask questions won’t get you anywhere. But just as dire is asking the wrong questions. Take Nintendo Wii, for instance. When it was released in 2006, it was hugely popular and sales skyrocketed. Then the creators asked themselves some questions: What will the second version of the Wii look like? What features will it include? When can we release it?
Enter Wii U.
As it turned out, it was one of Nintendo’s slowest-selling consoles ever.
Why did it fail?
It wasn’t for a lack of features. Nintendo had asked themselves some good questions regarding the design and development of the Wii U, making sure it packed a punch. But they failed to ask one rather left-of-field (yet deceptively simple) question: Do existing Wii customers want a newer version?
It turns out, they didn’t.
The customer base who’d snapped up the original Wii weren’t hard-core gamers. They were easygoing regulars drawn to the Wii’s simplicity, functionality, and relatively low price.
And this type of customer isn’t the type that collects multiple versions of gaming consoles. They tend to wait until something stops working before upgrading. So the Wii U sat on shelves, untouched.
The Value of a Great Question
At Step Change, ‘Great Questions’ is part of our value system, Step Change in Action:
Creative strategy is our bread and butter — and we’d go hungry if it weren’t for our ability to question the norm and boil down to the nitty gritty by asking great questions.
“Have we looked at this from another angle?”
“What if we tried this instead?”
The world of marketing and advertising is incredibly noisy. Cut-through material needs to be left-of-field, fresh, and dynamic. Creating that kind of content requires strategic thinking, and that requires asking great questions at every step.
We take the road less travelled — and that’s how we enable organisations to experience massive step changes in their success.
How to Create a Workplace Culture that Embraces Great Questions
- Encourage. Encouraging people to actively learn, rather than passively listen, is the first step towards creating an environment of open, fresh-perspective questions. And that’s where groundbreaking ideas appear.
- Don’t judge. Often, people fear they’ll sound foolish or naïve if they ask questions — especially within a roomful of colleagues. Start by reminding everyone there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Then lead by example: ask the questions that might seem obvious but that no one wants to ask. Get the ball rolling.
- Generic preempt. Encourage everyone to begin a brainstorming session by creating quick lists of the immediate questions that pop into their heads. Then go through the lists and look at each question with fresh eyes. Which ones have been shaped by stereotypes or preconceptions? Which ones can be reversed or rephrased?
- Foster innovation. Ask follow-up questions after someone has posed an interesting one. Tease out their thinking, hypothesise other ways of looking at their question, and speculate on different methods of answering it.
By encouraging great questions in the workplace, you’re fostering an environment where concepts and situations are looked at from multiple perspectives, which is where the best solutions are often found. As renowned businessman Thomas J. Watson would say, “The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”