It all starts with a wild question. In the tech industry, it might be, “what if people could carry their whole music library in their pockets? iPod. In the automotive industry, it might be, “what if a supercar could also work as an electric car? Porsche 918.
Each of these innovations began with a wild question. Contrary to the types of predictive questions established organizations ask themselves, wild questions do not aim to make predictions; rather they aim for provocation. Questions like the ones above are designed to upset your comfortable, business equilibrium and bring about an accelerated change in your own thinking; they are designed to get your thinking flowing in a different direction.
To break away from the status quo, you need to develop a habit of looking for alternative ideas instead of immediately accepting the most obvious approaches. Below, are six uncommon questions to help you shift your perspective and poke holes at the status-quo:
1. Make a list of all the projects you have inside your organization, do any of those have the potential to change your business significantly over the next year?
Large organizations have a vast amount of activities happening at any one time, most of these activities are focused on improving and expanding the core business. The challenge, to innovate, is to have activities that help you create the future. Be honest with yourself, do any existing activities inspire you?
2. If you could work on one project for a year to transform your business, which one would it be and why?
Innovators need to be challenged, that means ambitious projects that have the potential to challenge their hearts and minds. Take Google X, Google’s Moonshot factory, it only works on daring projects that have the potential to dramatically change the world; the types of projects no one else owns because they are challenging.
3. What is the shortest path to transformation, how can we get there quicker?
Speed is essential for innovation, take my word for it. Speed creates forward momentum, gets people focused on the getting to the future faster and bolder. Transformation usually happens because a small group of people had a bold idea, found a way to implement it fast and owned the idea to the end.
4. It’s 2020 and we’ve been named the most inspiring company in the world: What three things did we do to get this recognition?
To innovate means you have to stretch yourself, get out of your comfort zone. It means having a purpose, one that can take to new and unexplored heights. Thinking about your ideal future is essential for the success of your business, but thinking backwards is more important to establish some guidelines to how you might get there.
5. What would our dream testimonial from a customer say?
Really think about this one, because it sends a big signal to everyone in your organization about what you really care about. Customers are the ones who can tell you if you are simply talking the walk, or walking the talk.
6. What unconventional skills will our next line of hires have?
The only thing certain about the future is it will be different. To get there, you need people who are different in ways that matter to your businesses. When hiring innovators, one must look beyond the experience; look for potential. That means seeing what other skills and attributes a person has that they can bring to the table. For example, Cirque Du Soleil’s hiring practices are so specific that they don’t just hire for athletic prowess; but for unconventional skills that can play a big role in one of their shows.
Bottom line: Transformation starts by challenging the status quo, and bubble busting questions like these is what an innovation opportunity looks and sounds like. Aim thought provoking questions at every area of your business to challenge and dismantle existing beliefs and limits; do that and you will put yourself on the road to transformation.