In this Lightning Cast, we explore Powerful Questions and how they can help you create a new level of discussion, explore new possibilities, and create a true partnership.
A Lightning Cast is a shorter form episode modeled after lightning talks. You’ll get valuable content in 8 minutes or less.
Powerful questions are a way to challenge our thinking, stimulating deeper conversations, and uncovering hidden truths. By asking powerful questions, we create a new level of discussion; a greater possibility for new learning. It also creates a sense of true partnership because the person with whom you’re speaking feels heard and understood.
A powerful question differs from a regular question in a few key ways. Powerful questions:
- Are open-ended
- Are clear and concise
- Evokes deeper thinking
- Come from a place of curiosity and with a beginner’s mind
This type of question is considered powerful because it requires a stakeholder (or whomever you’re speaking with) to reflect on their answer and explore new possibilities. They also helps overcome some of our biases that may hinder the ability to make good decisions.
We often ask closed-ended, yes/no type questions that don’t explore the subject in any depth. Even when we ask some open-ended questions that start with who, where, and when, we limit exploration because you’re simply asking for a known answer or list.
Questions that start with words like why, what, or how require more exploration and can lead to deeper discussions and reveal new learning.
Make sure your questions don’t have any underlying assumptions which will limit exploration of the real issue.
Examples of Powerful Questions
The number one question you should ask is “Why?” This is the more powerful one-word question you can use. Beyond a simple “why”, here are a few powerful questions you can use in different situations.
- What’s important about that? (or Why is that important?)
- What if we did nothing at all, what would happen?
- Why should we make this investment?
- What would this initiative mean to you, your department, and to the rest of the organization?
- How does this align to our corporate goals and vision?
- What would success look like to you and how would we measure it?
- What would a proof of concept look like? How can we prove this idea?
- How would this change affect the rest of the organization? What will the impacts be upstream and downstream for this process?
- What led up to this problem?
- What have you tried so far?
- How do you deal with that problem today?
- What do you think is our biggest risk or roadblock on our way to success?
- What’s are biggest risk and how do we mitigate it?
- What are people thinking, but afraid to discuss?
- What are our options and alternatives if we run into issues?
- Can you tell me more about that?
- That’s interesting, what process did you go through to reach that conclusion? (or Can you give me more detail on the logic used to arrive at that?)
- What will be the key performance indicators for this? How will we measure them, and what hurdles do we need to overcome to be successful?
- What else?
- What concerns do you have about this initiative?
- What assumptions are we making? How can we challenge some of the assumptions we may be making?
- Why is this important to you?
- What haven’t I asked that would be important?
- Are we missing anything here?
The Key Trait
The ability to ask powerful questions is dependent on your curiosity. Ask questions with a beginners mind; with a natural curiosity and an eagerness to learn more so that you can appropriate advise your organization.
If you want to find powerful solutions and solve the right problems, ask more powerful questions.
Listen to this episode to understand the power behind powerful questions and how to use them.
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