Questions

Where there is smoke…

What advice would you give your younger self? If you could go back in time, say half of your current lifespan, what wisdom would you share with your less traveled self?

Chris Guillebeau shared a mind-shifting answer this weekend at World Domination Summit. He stated that he would ask his younger self how to nurture the key characteristics and mindsets that aging might erode. He flipped the script. He did not see the question as linear but rather generative. He reversed the flow and asked for guidance instead of funneling suspect wisdom to youth.

What questions and opportunities in your ecosystem are prime for a mind shift? How might we tell less and ask more for guidance? 

I am more connected to the causes who asked for my insights over the ones who told me their results and impact at the first point of contact. My ideas are treasured investments in these enterprises, and I intend to monitor their germination.

Ask a question before we tell; perhaps it becomes the fire that never natures into smoke.

This is not the sign you are looking for…

Outdated content that has been abandoned by the side of the trail is confusing at best and perhaps liter. Faded, inaccurate, confusing, and left over from a previous project. How many outdated messages do we leave throughout our organization? On our websites, in our facility, among our rituals, or even in current activities? Do we even see these legacy symbols anymore? Is there a process where someone outside our enterprise might help us identify what has become unseeable?

Pitch It vs Place It

We pitch it to avoid the even ground that exists between our current location and the intended landing zone. We are hopeful that the momentum we embed into the projectile is sufficient to reach the goal. We place it when we intend to be more exact and/or the value of the object meets a threshold to be considered less replaceable.

Horseshoes are easy to pitch and it is a required part of the rules of the game. The consequences of an errant throw is usually minimal and the reward for a ringer are virtual points. Placing a Rodin sculpture requires a level of expertise. We would be held in contempt if we pitched a world class sculpture over the wall and left it randomly in a sculpture garden. We invest in the professionals who have appreciation, experience, tools, time, and financial security to successfully install a piece.

Which considerations should we address before deciding if our intended strategy is a pitch or place?

Your Standards

When you work on a project, what are your standards? Is starting sufficient to meet your expectations? How about creating a beta version? What if the deliverable meets the customer’s expectations but you decided not to complete upgrades that will maximize performance? Where do you stop?

When you operate an airline, is getting the passenger from departure airport to arrival airport sufficient? When does passenger engagement begin and where does it stop? What interactions meet an airline’s standards during the journey? What is the promise you make?

There is a remarkable difference between delivering for the customer’s standard and our own standard? It is important to know which one we have prioritized.

When Does Edgecraft Start?

Seth Godin refers to Edgecraft as the furthest edge we can embrace without losing a connection to our super fans as we innovate. The feature, benefit, service must be remarkable. It is challenging to know when we have entered the realm of edgecraft . A tripwire to seek is when we start asking lots of questions. If we are on a mountain ridge, closing on the summit and dangerous weather approaches, we begin to evaluate our options. Is reaching the summit responsible? Can we get to the peak back to safety in time? How fast is danger approaching? What if we misjudge the elements, is there an alternative plan?

If we present a program or product decisions that everyone agrees represents our mission without raising anxiety and curiosity, we are not close to edgecraft. There is nothing wrong with mission centered work, we want to acknowledge it is not pushing boundaries. However, if we propose an activity that makes us uncomfortable but appears aligned with our Magnetic North (purpose, vision, mission, and values), then we might enter into robust debate. Perhaps part of our deliberation centers on the right balance between making our service better versus safer. Edgecraft is personal to every enterprise. A solo violinist is not capable of producing the same depth or sounds as an symphony. However they can be remarkable for their individual style and sound.

When have you practiced edgecraft? What were the results? How did your super fans respond? Does your community still retell the story of your edgecraft work? What questions did you ask of yourself? Why did you preserver?

Curiosity vs Certainty

Click the link above to listen to one of the more remarkable Hidden Brain podcasts, featuring Adam Grant, discussing his new book, Think Again.

Ask intriguing questions and people want better answers. If we challenge people’s views head-on, individuals tend to assume one of three modes: preacher, politician, or prosecutor. However, if we show curiosity in other people’s search as they reconsidering their point of view, we can go on a collective journey. We are seeking common ground which allows for greater flexibility. “How” questions tend to create a more open-minded and curious response with a shared dialogue. It is about the work, and the questions provide an opportunity to iterate after our first thought/draft.

What do you do?

Is there a better question than “what do yo do?” I am not sure if the askers wants to know my response so they can categorize me or if they are waiting to share their story. Do they want to place me into one of two categories: useful or not useful? What if I answer astronaut, Banksy, or $250 million lottery winner? Would those responses disrupt their sorting process? What if we consider better questions, like those recommended on LeadershipFreak blog (also consider the bonus material at the bottom).

Some questions I entertain as follow-up questions: What borders have you recently crossed? What insight/realization changed your perspective? Who inspires you and how can I sample their message/work? What ‘help wanted’ sign would you post if you knew a response would come within the hour? What is your super power?

Perhaps the best response to “what do you do,” is to ask better follow-up questions.

Pause and Purge

What features might we remove and still deliver the highest quality service? What was once essential that is no longer mandatory? What traditions are up for review during this dislocation? If the new way we assemble means place and time shifting, how do we prepare?

This is a powerful moment, do not miss the opportunity to seek new answers to the fundamental questions.

Feedback Tutorial in Four Points

  1. Micro-yes: Start with a point of agreement.
  2. Data point: highlight the specific and avoid blur words that may be misinterpreted.  Be specific about what actions we want to see increased or diminished.
  3. Impact statement: what is the purpose connecting the data points?
  4. Question: what is the essential question to create commitment instead of a monologue?
  5.  (Bonus) Ask for feedback regularly: “pulling feedback” allows for continuous learning.