Do we ask the right questions?

On a recent flight, I had an engaging conversation with the CEO of a large global company. After broadly discussing the business environment and how he is leading his organization through the changes taking place globally, I asked him about some of the current issues and challenges that he is currently focused on. Among the top 3 mentioned were:
– technology is the business now, not just the enabler;
– bridging the skill gap required for his vision of the company; and
– pushing the team to learn to ask the right questions with customers, partners and suppliers.
It was the last one that caught my attention as I was intrigued by the behavioral issue he had raised, “Are we asking the right questions to learn and listen more, build collaborative solutions or are we just putting out there about what we know”?

One of the most interesting points I captured from this conversation was about the effectiveness and business impact this key aspect has created in his company. At his organization, the teams which are able to ask the right questions to their ecosystem of customers, partners, suppliers, etc. have consistently outperformed the rest by 50+% across multiple quantifiable parameters. Why should asking the right set of questions be difficult? Why should everyone not be able do this naturally? Does this need training and coaching? Who asks the best and leading questions? They may often make it seem effortless, and yet they need much experience and knowledge on the subject, along with a broad set of business acumen in technology, domain, industry, people, process, and of course, a curious and open mind.

In the fast changing world, where every industry is massively disrupted by technology, where software is impacting every business, where digital, mobility, data science, cloud, cybersecurity, predictive analytics, etc. have become mainstream, and where partnership is the mainstay to deliver overarching solutions for an effective business outcome; any meaningful solution can only be achieved through intense collaboration. Collaboration comes through leading with thoughts and asking the right set of questions. Engaging in thought-provoking conversations and often asking counter-intuitive questions are key for a full view of the opportunity dimensions, and also helps us think through multiple scenarios of an issue as well as be a useful guide in crafting possible solutions. It is important to focus on enabling the thoughts rather than providing instant answers. It is important to learn to ask the right questions.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2015 – Welcome to the second half of this decade!

The middle of this decade is here. Much has been achieved in the first half and much more is expected from the second. While there are several key areas of focus which deserve attention and can create impact as we look into the next 5 years, the following 5 are the pivotal themes in my view. Each of them, on their own, has the mega potential to transform the world. Read more

Keep an open mind

Last week I visited one of the top universities in the US, renowned for its educational programs and world class research facilities. All the meetings were pre-planned, well organized and proceeded as per the schedule. It was a phenomenal experience to be with some of the brightest minds and discuss, debate and learn from them. It was also extremely insightful to see the labs with experiments in next gen technology and human interface, among several new ideas. There is just so much to absorb and learn from the university environment. Walking the halls of these magnificent buildings is always refreshing and rejuvenating. It is amazing how these iconic institutions, year after year, continue producing some of the sharpest minds, bringing new thinking and new ideas, and constantly innovating. Read more

What do you do when things explode?

My daughter, a high school junior, asked me yesterday whether I had heard about the NASA rocket which exploded midair. My response was yes; I saw the headlines and read about it online. She continued to ask what you would do, when something you have worked so hard for during the last several months, and perhaps years, suddenly blows up in front of you in 6 seconds. What do you think the scientists and engineers went through when they saw the explosion happening? What do you do when the project you are working on explodes like this? Read more