I once had a client who hired me because “I did not believe that the industry they wanted to launch in, had significant potential”. Their mindset was, if one could view the project from the mindset of a sceptic, chances of success are higher. That’s the power of a questioning mind. In a business it is an absolutely invaluable asset.
A 2018 Harvard Business Review article talked about how, sometimes, a brain storming session can be very difficult because it can feel like ideas need to be forced. People do not always want to be judged for their ideas and some problems don’t always have obvious solutions. Instead, if we brainstorm for questions, the entire process becomes easier.
Why is this process of brainstorming and questioning so critical?
“Therapy” for Entrepreneurs
Brainstorming for questions (and answers along the way), is like therapy for entrepreneurs. It helps a leader to clear their head. To look at seemingly unimportant bits of information, and to realise a problem or a solution is brewing somewhere. One client was determined to charge end users for their product. A quick brainstorming session later, we realised that in fact, the suppliers needed to be charged instead for sustainability. This won’t work in every business – but for that business, it was what allowed them to sustain.
The right questions, solve the right problems
Have you ever had a late night discussion with a friend where one person asks the most seemingly absurd question, which then leads to a very interesting conversation? Extrapolate that to your work life. What if you actively seek questions from the naysayers? What if, you understand what it is that your competitors would do in response to what you are planning to do. If you keep asking what could go wrong? It’s likely, you will be able to anticipate a problem far better. This is what business plans help you to do. They force you to think about so many aspects – and the financial impact of every strategic direction. Usually, that means you will question expensive decisions, weigh out the ones that are essential, and prudently use resources.
“Why (not)” is a very powerful weapon
Simon Sinek has an entire book on the importance of starting with “Why”. It helps you understand your own motivations. Related to that “why not”, is equally powerful. Why not target that particular market? Why not try another pricing system? I read somewhere about some company that was running a campaign for a product targeting middle aged people. Because the product was made for that age group. However, the sales were at reasonable levels for the senior citizens as well . But this got ignored because no one even looked at how senior citizen sales were running. Until, someone new came and noticed the obvious. The blind spot is a very powerful area that gets ignored when we don’t think of the unlikely.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs always have some naysayers on their teams. Not because pessimism is pleasant, but because someone who doesn’t agree with you, operates in a different headspace. This also needs you, the entrepreneur, to be strong enough, humble enough and kind enough to make your space safe enough for those questioning minds.
I heard somewhere, that often , rewriting is more important than writing. Nowhere is this more true than in a businesses. The environment is full of factors that impact us. Take to the drawing board often. Go back, revisit, get feedback, re work. Keep questioning, because that is the only way to keep learning and growing.
This article was originally publishes in Bahrain This Months' October 2022 issue.