The Value of Questioning in Business


Questions for your business

We’ve been reading Warren Berger’s fascinating book, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas”. The book’s basic premise is that we simply don’t ask enough questions these days. As youngsters, we were full of questions, but as we mature many of us lose this vital skill (while those who retain it become stellar innovators and leaders).

“A More Beautiful Question” is a helpful guide to developing a more question-based approach to life, society, and business. It explores a flow of questioning from “Why?” to “What if?” to “How?”, and demonstrates how this approach expands horizons by provoking awareness of needs, shining light on new opportunities, and helping ideas become realities.

Questioning in business

Unfortunately, much of modern business culture inhibits questioning. People are recognized and rewarded based on the answers they deliver, rather than the questions they ask. There is a price attached to this anti-question bias in business. Companies that push away from questions become increasingly myopic. They fail to see opportunities, trends, and threats.

Rather than seeing questioning as a danger, smart leaders and companies are striving to create question-based cultures. To give a taste of what that means, here’s a list of 24 provocative questions drawn from the book’s fourth chapter, “Questioning in Business”:

  1. What are we in business? (And by the way, what business are we really in?)
  2. What is our company’s purpose on this earth?
  3. What does the world need most…that we are uniquely able to provide?
  4. What if our company didn’t exist?
  5. Whom must we fearlessly become?
  6. What more can we do?
  7. What is true about us, at our core?
  8. What are we against?
  9. Who have we (as a company) historically been when we’ve been at our best?
  10. What if we could become a cause and not just a company?
  11. How can we make a better experiment?
  12. How might we?
  13. Does our mission still make sense? Are we still living up to it? Is it pulling us forward? Are we all on this mission together?
  14. If we brainstorm in questions, will lightning strike?
  15. Where in our company is it safe to ask radical questions?
  16. If we were kicked out of the company, what do we think the new CEO would do?
  17. Why are we doing it this way?
  18. What should we stop doing?
  19. Where is the place we can be a start-up again?
  20. What if money were no object? How might we approach the project differently?
  21. Will anyone follow a leader who embraces uncertainty?
  22. Should missions statements be mission questions?
  23. How might we create a culture of inquiry?
  24. How do you reward questioning?

Questions for your brand

Your brand strategy can be the catalyst for a culture of inquiry. When it seeks to embody a purpose beyond profits, it questions the motives, orientations, and attitudes of your company. It asks difficult questions that lead to revealing and powerful answers that are rooted in meaning and emotion. This leads to a brand that navigates the world in a more purposeful way, asking the questions that need to be asked of itself, and discovering the meaningful connections that help them prosper.

Somewhere within the “Why?”, “What if?”, and “How” of your business lies your brand’s meaningful promise to the world… a promise that could propel your business, and its people, forward.

Ask the questions. Live the answers. And thrive.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.




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