Great Questions Spark Innovation

This week, Alex Rister and I met with a colleague and former student, David Morillo. During our meeting, David, who is an Online Admissions Training Team Leader at Full Sail University and an integral part of leadership training at our institution, led me through an exercise designed to help me isolate my hierarchically based value system. During that exercise, I shuffled through cards with words like “Faith,” “Family,” “Accomplishment,” and “Wealth” on them. After sorting, resorting, and resorting again, I landed on my top two values: “Fairness” and “Creativity/Innovation.” I cannot really pin point the source of my adamant belief in fairness as a guiding principle in life, but when asked why I chose creativity and innovation over other values like “Change” or “Knowledge”, I realized that for me, innovation leads to growth, increased knowledge, and wisdom. My drive to choose paths in life that help further foster creativity leads to growth in these other areas. One way I teach by innovation is to constantly ask my students questions and encourage them to come up with questions of their own. Author and business journalist, Warren Berger recently wrote the book (A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) on questions as a tool for innovation. More than just asking questions, it’s important to ask the right questions as a path to innovation. In this book and in this INC. article by Leigh Buchanan, Berger describes what makes a great question, what sorts of questions don’t get asked, and how to motivate others to ask questions. Three takeaways from this article I can apply to my own body of work and the work of my students are:

1. A great question is challenging and ambitious

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Great questions force the speaker and listener to content with an idea, make sense of it, and find a solution (or myriad of solutions) to the proposed problem at hand. A PCP Reboot question to consider here is: What if we actualize persuasion by asking students to learn to sell their professional stories?

2. Leaders’ questions help create a culture of inquiry

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Oftentimes as a teacher, I don’t have an answer to a proposed question. I simply want to see where a question takes us. Students can then learn that sometimes the best questions have no immediate or firm answer.

3. A great answer takes time

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I’ve worked on answering the big question for my course–how do we truly reveal the power and importance of a presentation in an accelerated asynchronous medium–for five years. Each time I think I’ve found the answer, a new facet of the question reveals itself that I must contend with, iterate around, and work to solve.

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