Byron's Babbles

You Will Just Have To Accept This! Why?

file 6I have always believed we need to always refuse to accept the existing reality. I really believe this in our personal lives, organizations we work in, state, nation, and world. My thinking was affirmed when reading A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger this past weekend. He told the story of Van Phillips. This amazing and inspiring story is about the person that invented the mind-blowing “blade runner” prosthetic device.  When Phillips lost his leg in a boating accident, he could have asked the usual question.  Why me?  Instead he went further, asking “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a decent foot?”  Then he took ownership of the question:  How can I make a better foot? It’s easy, when we’re confronted with a challenge that seems insurmountable to ask “what are we going to do?”  Or… worse yet, to just accept that is the we it has to be. What if, we ask, “why does it have to be that way. Or… better yet, what if, instead we asked “What if this change represents an opportunity for us?”

AMBQ-Hardcover-Paperback_edited-1-768x634In this great book, Berger, incorporates a wide array of examples and his three question framework of innovation: Why, What if, and How. Plenty of innovation has started with questions, many of which are downright strange. Warren Berger’s definition of a beautiful question is, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” We need to remember that questions trump answers, every time.

As leaders, we would all be better served to practice divergent thinking and encourage our teams to think and question this way as well. Divergent thinking is the intellectual ability to think of many original, diverse and elaborate ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the right brain dominant, which is seeing things in a perceptual manner. In other words asking, “Why does it have to be this way?” This is in contrast to convergent thinking which is the ability to logically evaluate and choose the best idea from a selection of ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the left brain dominant, which is seeing things in an analytical manner.
We need to develop the capacity in ourselves and those we lead to produce many, or a greater number of complicated or complex ideas from a single idea or “why does it have to be this way?” question to trigger more ideas. It calls for making unexpected combinations, changing information into unanticipated forms, identifying connections among remote associates, and the like. In divergent thinking, a single question returns multiple answers, and though the answers vary considerably depending on the person, all answers are of equal value. Perhaps they did not exist ever before and so are novel, surprising or unusual. Now, this is not to say we need only divergent thinkers because we will need the convergent and linear thinkers to help us accomplish our goals.
Asking the powerful question “why?” forces people to think deep. They can then peel back the layers of excuses and get to the root cause of the problem. Asking “why” seems easy enough. It’s just a little word, after all. So, why don’t leaders ask this powerful question more often? Probing deep can be scary for a leader. It smells of confrontation and hints of accusation. It also is giving up some authority and asks others to weigh in. Many leaders are also accustomed to and want to be the go-to person for answers. They’re used to giving direction and opinion. It makes them feel valued, important and reinforces their position of authority. Also, some leaders prefer to deliver the answers because they think it will save precious time. Unfortunately, when leaders routinely dish out the answers, they become enablers of that dysfunctional cycle, which is actually a huge time-waster. Employees regularly seek out leadership for the solution rather than being leaders where they are and becoming problem-solvers. This prevents the ability to develop real solutions, stifles employee growth and ultimately limits company productivity. Remember, leadership should be happening where the data is produced.
The best leaders are those who understand that asking “why” is a highly productive teaching method. Teaching – true professional growth – and challenging people to think is what stimulates discovery, solutions and growth. So, the goal of any leader is to become a great teacher and develop the necessary skills. This includes not only asking “why”, but then also giving employees the autonomy to ask “why” and the appropriate amount of time to determine the real answer. Remember, we all live in the world our questions create!
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