Monday, September 15, 2008

Yeah, so?

People who know me know I believe in courageous conversations. Typically these happen in personal relationships when it takes courage to approach someone and talk about an uneasy subject. But the same is true for business situations. Those courageous conversations happen when creating strategy, thinking about the competition, or evaluating the power of your value proposition.

Posing the right questions gets to the root of issues and assumptions about ourselves and our competition. They are the "bare-naked truth" questions often avoided not because the questions are offensive or even complex, but because we don't have the answers we should. The quality of a question determines the quality of the response. When we ask easy questions of ourselves or our competition, or questions that can't be answered, the answer gives us exactly what we put into the question--easy answers or no answer at all.

What powerful questions do is give us a broader range of exploration. They lead us to examine possibilities and develop scenarios that can lead to competitive advantages. Powerful questions do not have to be complex or sophisticated. My favorite one is: "What would happen if we did nothing?" And another: "Why?" "What is this for?" and "So, what?" These questions cannot be answered easily or quickly; though beware the people who promise that they can. Questions like these require thoughtful consideration of all the possibilities. They allow the us to create different scenarios leading to innovation and leadership within the marketplace, which is what competitive intelligence and positioning is all about.

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