We often talk about providing “solutions” to our clients. While this terminology makes sense in a general sense—we do partner with clients to help them overcome business challenges—it belies our core belief that nearly all solutions lie within your organization. As such, we focus not on “providing” answers, but on bringing people together and asking the right questions to tap into their collective intelligence. This is the essence of applied collaboration.
Some of my favorite thinkers, including Tim Brown of IDEO, Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School, and Warren Berger, author of Glimmer, have spoken and written about the importance of questions in design, management, and life. A good question—even a very simple one—can be incredibly powerful; it can spark a chain reaction of dialogue and thought that leads to innovation, process improvement, customer engagement and much more.
The rise of assembly-line factory production prompted a move away from question-centric liberal education to a system focused on efficiently producing the “right” answers. This approach is poorly suited to a world where creativity, innovation, and collaboration are core drivers of value. We must re-learn how to ask, as Warren Berger puts it, “a beautiful question.”
Asking questions can be a frightening prospect. It reveals that there are things we don’t know, and we may not always like the answers we get. But it is only by asking that we can learn from the ideas and experience of others, so ask we must.
Some of the questions we’re asking can be found in our State of Collaboration Survey.
What are some of your big questions?