Probably not. Our job is to create value. Value and success are the products of asking the right questions and discovering effective solutions. We are challenged questions every day. Questions in our personal lives and questions at work. The questions never stop. The answers get harder and harder to find. We live in a world of constraints. Whether it’s time, money, resources, people, capacity or whatever, increasingly we have to do more with less.
The velocity of business and the cost of resources require us to deliver better and faster solutions than ever before. The world doesn’t wait. Our competition doesn’t wait. This requires us to ask better questions.
Better questions. Easier said than done. Let’s try asking different questions. Let’s try asking propelling questions.
Adam Morgan and his team at Eat Big Fish pioneered the concept of challenger brands and created a body of work regarding “propelling questions.” A propelling question requires us to combine bold ambition with significant constraints. That means we have to think different and propose wild ideas that look at the nature of the problem differently. There is the famous story that Henry Ford said if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.
Fast forward 100+ years and Audi was faced with the question of how to win the 24 hours of Le Mans race when they did not have faster engines. Their answer was to use their turbo diesel technology to keep their race car on the track longer because of fewer pitstops to refuel. No engine, no matter how powerful could make up for the time their competitors lost to Audi by making more pitstops. Audi asked a different question. And they got a different result finishing first and third in 2006 and then winning in 2007 and 2008.
We can proclaim our mission to 10x whatever we like because it sounds impressive and makes us feel good. But we can’t get to 10x or even 2x by asking the same questions. We must think different by asking better questions and by embracing our constraints. The world has changed.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
In our personal lives and in our business we are required to ask questions that propel us forward. How to do more with less. How to ask the question differently so that we spark innovation. Propelling questions are not just about trying harder or tweaking past results. Answering a propelling question requires us, like Audi to apply new solutions that have never been used before. It combines the bold initiative to try something new with the very constraint we are working to solve that propels us toward entirely new solutions.
Purchase the book “A Beautiful Constraint” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden. Read it twice.
Think about your relationship with your constraints. Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a book children couldn’t put down using only 225 specific words. That inspired him to write “The Cat in the Hat” which sold over 10 million copies and he did it again with “Green Eggs and Ham” selling over 8 million books.
Remember the iconic 1997 Apple “Think Different” Campaign.
“ Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
— Steve Jobs, 1997