To get the right answer we need to ask the right question. Consider the scenario where your sales are falling. You ask the question ‘why are our sales falling?’ and get an answer like ‘because our sales people are rubbish’.
Before we fire our sales force let us try a different and more in depth style of questioning.
Why are sales falling? – Because customers don’t like our products
Why don’t they like our products? – Because they are outdated, not as cool as this year’s model
Why are our products outdated? – Because we have not developed any new ones for 5 years
Why have we not done this before? – Because the boss has not allowed us
Why has the boss behaved in this way? – Because they have no spare time to spend
So our sales are falling because the boss (potentially us) needs a lesson in time management. Not only do we need to ask the right question, we might need to ask more than one in order to inform our decision about which course of action to take.
The Royal Society is known the world over for the contribution of its members in the field of Science. The Royal Society is celebrating 350 years since its founding to promote science, technology and engineering and it numbers many famous names amongst its fellows including Christopher Wren, Stephen Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners Lee. This small band is well known for their achievements and perhaps not so well known for being cantankerous, awkward and in some cases downright dangerous. It demonstrates the power of rebels.
Back in 1752 a man flew a kite into a thunderstorm in an attempt to harness the electricity present within the clouds. Luckily he succeeded and his efforts led to the lightning conductors that we see on tall buildings today. The gentleman’s name was Benjamin Franklin, a name well known in the USA today.
At the same time as he was working within the bosom of the scientific community and harnessing the power of lightning he was also a thorn in the side of the British government, trying to gain independence for the colony and developing relations with France. So what, I hear many ask?
Many of our advances have come from such ‘pressure cookers’ where questioning and sometimes rebellion are tolerated and even sometimes encouraged. In order to capture this genius we need to learn to recognise and then manage these situations In particular, being able to live with ambiguity, tolerate high degrees of risk and practise hands-off management are high on the agenda for those wishing to make use of such talents within their businesses.
See also Making Use Of Oddballs.