Be sure to ask the right questions

In an era of information overload, it’s easy to miss the obvious or worse, the important. The constant avalanche of facts, figures and opinions can seem impossible to escape. Yet that’s exactly what executives must do to be effective. This dilemma is at the heart of a new book by Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone, Drinking from the Fire Hose: Making smarter decisions without drowning in informationAs the authors told creativity expert Matthew May, the key is to cut through the dross to elicit the essential nuggets of information. “Whatever field you’re in, asking smarter questions will expose you to new information, point you to connections between seemingly unrelated facts and open new avenues of discussion and dialogue,” May agrees in his review of the book. Well-crafted questions are essential in order to capitalise on opportunities or solve problems, adds innovation blogger Paul Williams. It all comes down to framing: questioning from different perspectives to ensure you’re focused on the right thing. “You see movie directors doing this, forming a box with their thumb and index finger– framing to see how the scene will look on the screen,” Williams says. “They keep shifting the perspective until they find what they want in scene. We do the same thing with problem-solving…but instead of shifting the position of our hands, we shift time, people, risk, resources, and our overall perspective.” Questions using the people frame, for example, might include: ‘How would our employees see this?’ and ‘How would a client define the problem?’. “Next time you or your team is faced with a challenge – even when the problem behind that challenge can seem fairly clear – try a few different frames before you settle on the final approach,” Williams says. “You may find a different frame changes the look of the whole picture.”

 

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