Any Questions?

Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine ran a terrific piece on how a cadre of “idea entrepreneurs” from Jump Associates, IDEO and other firms are helping companies learn how to think.

A big part of the process, it turns out, is not providing answers. Rather, it is helping organizations figure out the questions they should be asking.

“A consultant solves problems,” Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and co-author of The Other Side of Innovation, says in the article. “That is not my role. What I want is for companies to self-diagnose their problems and self-discover their own solutions through my thought leadership.”

[EXPAND More]What’s striking is how much this sounds like the way that Peter Drucker approached things with his clients. “It was never his style to bring CEOs clear, concise answers to their problems but rather to frame the questions that could uncover the larger issues standing in the way of performance,” BusinessWeek remarked in a story that ran shortly after Drucker’s death in 2005. Dan Lufkin, a co-founder of investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, who often consulted with Drucker in the 1960s, noted: “He would never give you an answer. That was frustrating for a while. But while it required a little more brain matter, it was enormously helpful to us.”

Throughout his writing, Drucker underscored the importance of posing smart questions. “The right answers are not the result of brilliance or of ‘intuition,’” Drucker wrote in his 1973 classic Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “The right answers are the result of asking the right questions.”

So, how about you? What’s the best question you’ve asked yourself, or that your organization has asked itself, in the last few months?[/EXPAND]


What’s the best question you’ve asked yourself?