When someone says to me – ‘I will work hard and make you happy’ my first mental reaction is “how can you make me happy if you don’t even know what it is that makes me happy”. In the same way, if we intend to add value, our first and foremost effort should be to deeply understand what it is that is being “valued” by a particular client.
Inquiring is about understanding the purpose and goal before doing something. A wise person once said ask “why?” three times before you accept the answers. There are many important questions to be asked in the whole process of understanding before value can be created.
- What is the overarching goal for the work that we are doing?
- What “pain” are we solving or what “new way of working” are we intending to create?
- How does our work make life easy for the client?
- What is the day-to-day life (related to product) of the end user and what will make things easier for them?
- What “if not done well” can jeopardize the whole product and the effort?
- What softer value is expected in the engagement? Softer values are things such as “ease of working with us”, “ideas”, and “unexpected items that create WOW”
Questioning is about finding a better way to reach the goal or do something (it is not about blaming or faulting others).
An innovation based culture is a culture which fosters questioning and not one which shies away from it. If there is no curiosity there is no innovation, there is nothing new being created and we tend towards mediocrity over a period of time.
Asking good questions that are productive, positive and creative can help us create better outcomes for our clients. Asking good questions can help:
- Connect with clients in a more meaningful way by learning more about the client’s problems and preferences
- Avoid mistakes
- Work with your team and clients more effectively
- Create better solution options and enable better decisions
- Persuade clients onto a different path that in the end is better for them
- Diffuse stalemates between the client and you
Effective questioning is an art that has to be:
- Grounded in goal and purpose
- Combined with effective listening
- Done in a way that get everyone focused on better outcomes
- Focused on the problems and solutions and not the individuals involved (suspend judgment)
- Restate what is said and clarify assumptions
- Done with an open mind and not as an effort solely to promote your solution
- Never question the intentions of others
- Build trust in you and the process
In summary, the best results are created by individuals who have the curiosity to learn, listen emphatically and constantly strive to create a better overall outcome.