Recently, Hal Gregersen, the author of Questions are the Answer, had an outstanding article in the Wall Street Journal, To Be a Better Leader, Ask Better Questions. As a futurist, I have always exhorted my clients to “give up on answers, stick with questions.” (I even provide them a quick cheat sheet of potential questions they might want to regularly ask.)
Gregersen explains that a good question does five things:
1. It reframes the problem
2. It intrigues the imagination
3. It invites others’ thinking
4. It opens up space for other answers
5. It is nonaggressive (it does not embarrass, humiliate, or assert power over the other party.)
He then goes on to suggest that a powerful way to “exercise” your questioning “muscles” is to brainstorm for questions. This should not be a taxing exercise. In fact, Gregersen recommends a team do it for only four minutes.
As a futurist, I sat down and, without editing my questions, rattled off as many questions as I could think of in four minutes that might be relevant for my clients. Here are they are:
What is our responsibility to the future?
To whom are we responsible?
How deep does our responsibility go? One year? Five years? Seven generations? More? Less?
How do we create a better future? And who are we creating this future for? Ourselves? Our customers? Our community? Our planet?
Is our responsibility to become bigger or better in the future?
Who is creating the future faster than we are?
Who is creating a better future than we are?
How do we create a more beautiful future?
Are we creating an ugly future?
Would our customers, the public, and future generations agree?
How might future customers and generations view us and our product(s)?
How are we preparing ourselves, our employees, our customers and our community for the future?
What is worth doing in the future whether we succeed or not?
How would we like things to be different in the future?
That’s it. That’s all the questions I created in four minutes. It is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a start. As a leader, I encourage you to take some time to think about these questions. More important, you and your team should create your own list of questions about the future and then begin the difficult work of determining which question(s) you need to begin answering.