Creating a culture of curiosity and inquiry

I want everyone to speak freely. There are no sacred cows. Question everything.

Imagine if that was your company mantra. Your culture was designed for inquiry — beginning at the top, with leaders who are as interested in asking questions as they are in providing answers or direction. Not the basic questions of cost, time, and who is responsible for implementing the plan. Rather, asking exploratory questions – the kind that move the company forward or in a new direction.

A terrific article by Harvard Business Review explores the challenge to “become a company that questions everything.”

The article posits that leadership should be willing to answer tough questions — from all levels and departments. By example, Google offers wide-open ‘TGIF’ sessions. Employees are invited to submit questions to the company’s top executives, and the ones voted up by the rest of the company — often the toughest, most controversial questions — are fielded by the bosses.”

Does this sound like your company?

If the answer is yes, perhaps you should read a different blog.

If the answer is no, let’s continue this story together.

Business evolution is much like the human life cycle. When we are children, we ask a lot of questions. Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? Why is my voice changing?

As we grow older, we gain a wealth of experience. It becomes easy to stop asking questions because we know the answers. Vapor in the atmosphere. When a man and woman love each other. Puberty.

The problem is… things change. Industries change. Customers change. What didn’t work in the past might work today. What worked yesterday might fail in the future.

We all like to think we are the experts of our craft — that no one could possibly have the grasp on the industry that we do. That mindset is a dangerous one.

It is a vulnerable thing to create a culture of inquiry. It requires thick skin, security and objectivity. Questions can be painful. They can shed light on things that require a lot of work to change.

It is a hard thing to ask the right questions. Not merely questions — the right questions. The right question can be as simple as, “Does that button on the homepage generate the most purchases it is capable of?” It can be as complex as, “Are we spending too much time on the things that yield the least revenue?”

That is what this blog is about. The pain in the ask.

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