The Power of Questions
We've all heard the cliché "better questions lead to better answers" or "the answer is only as good as the question." Since asking good questions is one of our company's core values, we decided to experiment with our executive team to test their question-asking skills.
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What We Did:
During a three-day strategy session in Park City, Utah, our executive management team was given a ball and a basic set of rules for an exercise in team building:
- Everyone must touch the ball in the same order
- The ball must never touch the ground
The team was asked to start the exercise in a standing circle as the leader and each subsequent person chose who to throw the ball to next. After completing the circuit once the leader added additional tennis balls (four) and gave the group a goal to get through all four balls as quickly as they'd gotten through with just one ball.
Without hesitating or asking any questions, the group stuck to the same strategy they used on the first round. They did not beat their time. The leader told them to go again.This time, someone yelled out "get closer" in the middle of the round, and the entire group started taking steps towards the center of the circle. They beat their time. The leader then asked them to do it in shorter and shorter increments. As the demands got harder, everyone started asking more specific questions: Do we have to be in a circle? Can one person run around and have everyone touch all four tennis balls in order? Can we use just a finger instead of a whole hand? As better and better questions were asked, the team ended up with a strategy that allowed all fifteen people to touch all four tennis balls in less than one second!
What We Learned:
- Take time to ask questions and develop a strategy before acting. If simple questions had been asked at the beginning, the team could have proposed a variety of strategies and gotten to the ultimate solution much more quickly.
- Listen to everyone in the group. The original idea to "get closer" came from one of the least experienced people in the circle. Ideas can come from any level within the organization.
- Team-Building experiments don't require a lot of money or time. This experience cost less than $10 and took under 30 minutes.