Every leader wants to build a culture of innovation in their respective organisations. There is enough written about how one can go about building a culture of innovation. I have myself written about it as below:
- Everyone wants to innovate but no one wants to fail,
- How do you innovate “Innovation”,
- What stops Us from Creating Breakthrough Innovations,
- Building a Culture of Innovation by Creating A Structure for Unstructured Innovation and many more.
As atoms are the most fundamental unit of matter, imagination, more importantly, the ability to imagine is the most fundamental unit for all innovations. The ability to imagine is an innately human trait, which most of us forget how to access by the time we reach our adulthood and late in our careers. What we need is something to enable us to let our imaginations sour. This role is perfectly done by questions.
If someone asks us a question that requires us to imagine a different reality, it suddenly becomes much easier to tap into our inherently human trait and ride our imagination. So, in a way, questions, more specifically, interesting questions are what drive innovations.
No innovation can happen without someone asking an interesting question. So, if we want to create a culture where innovation thrives, we need to create an environment where not only is it ok to ask interesting questions but we have to actively train our employees on how to ask these interesting questions.
It is in this endeavour, that I stumbled onto the book – “Ask More” by Frank Sesno. I wanted to learn more about asking questions. Frank’s book is probably the best resource that i have come across to learn the different kinds of questions and how to ask them.
Of all the different kinds of questions that he talks about, the ability to ask questions that allow us to be creative, through the power of our imagination, are vital from an innovation stand point.
Questions that Lead to Creativity:
Creativity questions encourage people to think about things that go beyond the familiar. They encourage originality and risk taking. They ask people to consider new ideas and imagine new scenarios. They put us in the future tense. They push boundaries. Creativity questions ask people to imagine ambitiously and think independently.
There are different types of questions here.
Questions that help us Dream
There are questions that enable us to dream about the kind of future reality that we want to create.
- What if there were no limits?
- What is your dream?
- What would you do if you knew for certain that you would not fail?
These questions create the frame within which subsequent thinking will take place. So, it is important to create the right frame.
Questions that help us Become Someone Else
Then there are questions that explore you to role-play and put yourself in someone else’s shoes:
- What would you do if you were the CEO/Customer/Partner/POTUS or Prime Minister of India?
- What would Jeff Bezos do?
- What would apple do in this situation?
These questions enable us to look at the same situation from a different perspective and this has the potential to create great insights, which would otherwise not be available to us.
Questions that help us time travel
Then there are questions that allow us the ability to travel back and forth in time.
- Imagine you have succeeded beyond imagination. What happened? What are you doing? What is it like? What fuelled your success?
- Imagine you have failed. What happened? What brought your downfall? What assumptions did not pan out as you had expected?
These questions have enabled many teams to avoid costly mistakes in their projects.
In conclusion, I would like to again re-iterate the importance of being able to ask interesting questions, that enable us to imagine future reality. If we want to create a culture of innovation, we should not only create an environment where our teams are continuously learning and getting better at asking interesting questions and at the same time are getting better at using these questions to imagine a much more creative future.