Asking questions is vital in creating a culture of curiosity as well as driving innovation. In our last post on creating a culture of curiosity, we introduced the struggling CXO barely keeping their head above water because of the changing environment and intense competition. The CXO needed to overcome business as usual and move beyond the status quo by initiating innovation within their organization. The CXO needs to foster a culture of curiosity. Essential number 1 to the culture you get is in the questions you ask.

Your innovation journey

Asking questions is vital in creating a culture of curiosity as well as driving innovation. As you start your innovation journey, you have to understand where you are currently in order to begin mapping where you want to go. As you assess where you are, narrow questions can be very effective for understanding the situation. Narrow questions focus on “What is” happening in your organization.

  • What is your current profitability?
  • What is your current revenue per sales representative?
  • What is your most profitable customer profile?
  • What is your most profitable product?

Narrow questions help us understand our current situation as we start to invoke broader questions that focus on the future.

Shift the dialogue

To really drive a culture of curiosity that accelerates innovation in your organization, it is necessary to shift the dialogue to broad questions focused on “What could be”.

  • What could our profitability be?
  • What could our revenue per sales representative be?
  • What could be your most profitable customer profile?
  • What could be your most profitable product?

While this seems obvious, I have personally sat in hundreds of strategy and business plan presentations over the years where the majority of the discussion focuses on “what is” or even worse, “what was”. These are easy and comfortable questions to answer as a business that can be supported by the financial and operational systems collecting and providing the answers.

What is your ambition?

I recently sat in a series of business plan presentations and listened as chart after chart detailed the results of “what is” and “what was”. The executive for the group would then ask a very simple but powerful question to each and every presenter. “What is your ambition?”

Now that is a broad question with a bit of thinking required! It is not a simple “How much did you grow and how much do you plan to grow?” It was a question that demanded bigger thought and elaboration. That is a “what could be” question!

As you look at driving a culture of curiosity to drive innovation in your organization, shift the dialogue. You have to understand and report the “what is” and “what was”, but innovation is all about the “what could be”. Start listening in to the questions your organization asks during the day. Keep a tally on a note pad, smart phone or traditional sheet of paper and at the end of the day, count how many narrow “what is” questions you hear and how many broad “what could be” questions you hear. To find out my estimate of what you’ll encounter, GO HERE. You will also have a chance to put in your numbers and see some instant results to benchmark your organization against others that are sharing their results.

Broad questions shift the thinking to the future, to the possibilities and to what could be. As we approach the end of the year and look to the beginning of a new year, my question for you is “What is your ambition?”

The culture you get is in the:

Written by: Charlie Thackston | Creating a Culture of Curiosity Essential #1: Questions You Ask

For more on this topic and other areas of SOAR thought leadership:

Questions You Ask | Essential 1 for Creating a Culture of Curiosity