It’s the Question that Counts!

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All my life, I’ve understand the importance of asking questions.  When I was in seventh grade I had a teacher who didn’t like the fact that students “interrupted” with questions. He had us all create paper tents to put on our desk, with the following comment facing the student: “Is this a Stupid Question?” You can imagine the impact that had on the class’ involvement!  (Amazingly, this was an advanced class in science!)

As a youth leader and later teacher, I always encouraged my students to ask questions believing that’s the best way to learn. When I started my training as Vistage Chair, I was exposed to the Issue Processing format of Executive Sessions – how a MasterMind Peer Advisory Group doesn’t just listen to your question and then offer their answers, but instead focuses on helping you clarify your question as each member offers different perspectives from which to judge to analyze the question.

For instance, imaging you’re considering selling your company, and a larger company makes a mostly stock offer? Should you sell? Imagine the possible interests that need to be explored (e.g., is it a good price? What are the acquirers’ chance of growing – both as a company and given prevailing market conditions? What will happen to your employees (and do you care?)? What will you do – and is that what you and your family want? etc. I know of a case where a Vistage member posed such a question to his Advisory Board Members, and while he thought it was a “slam-dunk good deal” (as he was told by his attorney accountant and colleagues), his group unanimously suggested he reject the offer based on a different perspective. He listened to his group and turned the deal down. Six months later the acquirer declared bankruptcy!

What he obtained at that Vistage group meeting, was what Warren Berger calls “A More Beautiful Question”. That’s the title of his recent book which focuses on the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. I think you’ll enjoy it. Regardless, share with us how a “more beautiful question” in your life made a significant difference!