Contrary to what we’re told in school, a true question does not actually have a direct answer. A true question's purpose is to seek possibilities, ideas and innovation – they generate a sense of curiosity and inquiry that leads to new avenues and opportunities you have not previously considered.
Questions that have the power to change your business are those that will get you out of limited thinking, or the ‘risk avoidance’ mentality, and put your attention on what is possible beyond what you currently have going on.
Here are my top four favourite questions to ask in business. Using these questions is a simple, yet extremely dynamic way to open up your business to being on the leading edge of innovation in your industry.
Most businesses are trying to find the right formula, the ‘tried and true’ methods for being profitable. What we are finding in business more and more is that there is no ‘tried and true’ – the world is changing rapidly and is different every day.
Asking questions and acting on new ideas is one of the most effective ways to ensure you are creating a business that has a future based on growth and expansion, and not survival.
1. “What’s right about what we are not getting?”
When something does not go according to plan, do you judge it immediately and assume you have made a wrong decision or a mistake? When you do this, you are choosing to only see the bad and none of the good.
If you ask “what’s right about this?”, you will be able to look at what has happened from a different perspective and receive information, awareness and allow possibilities to be created instead. What if something even greater than you imagined is now possible due to a supposed ‘blunder’? If you don’t ask what’s right about it, you won’t see it.
2. “How does it get any better than this?”
Use this question when something great shows up in your business, for example, you just hit a profit target, or conversely, when you didn’t get a result you had hoped for. This is a great tool for sales or customer service staff.
Use it for every sale you make, and every sale you don’t. Use it for every new client you get on the books, and for every client who doesn’t get on board.
It may sound overly simple, but it’s a great question to ask. It will get you out of the habit of stopping the innovation and forward moving energy. For your business to continually expand, you have to keep asking for more. The minute you stop seeking more, is the minute your business starts to go backwards.
3. “What is possible here that I have never considered?”
So many businesses get stuck in the problem/solution paradigm, which is one of the biggest destroyers of innovation. “What else is possible?” invites other possibilities where previously you may have decided there were none.
Putting your attention on seeking possibilities rather than finding the problems so that you can make a solution invites you, your staff and your business to function from a completely different playing field than most other business.
Anytime you find yourself thinking, “I have a problem; what’s the solution?” start asking, “What else is possible here that I have never considered?” instead, and notice if anything different begins to show up.
4. “What contribution can I be to everybody and to the business today? And what contribution can they be to me?”
Contribution is a word that doesn’t get valuable airtime, and we rarely look at the principle of contribution as a pragmatic and tangible tool for benefitting the business and all involved. Contribution is the action of people giving of their unique and individual capacities to a common purpose (in this case business), which allows the business as a whole to become greater.
The receptionist knows something that the CEO does not. The warehouse staff know something that the administration staff do not, and vice versa.
Do you value and include all these different insights in the creation of your business? Do you value certain people or certain roles more or less than others? Are you limiting the contribution that you can receive from the people in your business based on that?
If we acknowledge that no contribution is lesser or greater, but different, and capable of adding to the whole, you suddenly have infinitely more resources, insights and information available to you.
Increasing sales and innovating in all levels of business does not have to start with complex strategy. It actually begins with a simple choice to take a different point of view. Asking questions is a tool for empowerment in every level of business. What questions could you ask today that would invite a different possibility for you, your staff and business?
Simone Milasas is the founder of Joy of Business, a business help seminar, and a business adviser.