When you have a question, don’t settle for the first answer, even if it feels like it’s the right one. When you accept the first answer in a rush to move something forward or get to the next step, a whole world of detail that can launch understanding and clarity sits unexplored.
The paradox of needing time to get below the surface in a fast-changing environment is something I see many organisations struggle with. These time-consuming tasks can include uncovering values and interrogating purpose, positioning, areas of research and development and even questions of policy.
A deeper delve reveals the nuance. You might know something is important, but the useful stuff comes when you understand what is important about it and how it is important.
For example, you’re taking a look at the organisation’s values, and ‘curiosity’ has emerged as something that’s important. However, if a deep delve into what kind of ‘curiosity’ is absent, including what about it is important and how you demonstrate it, you will only be a surface dweller sitting on the idea of curiosity.
If you miss out on refining your idea, people will simply apply their own understanding. And while it could be the right one, it’s a 50/50 shot at best.
So how can you improve the odds? Do the work. And luckily there are some simple and practical approaches to get down to those uncharted depths. Commonly called ‘five whys’, these days I avoid the whole ‘why’ thing, so I’ll call it ‘five what’s importants’.
If you’re interested in my reasons for the avoiding why click here.
Back to the example of curiosity. Yes, being curious is terrific. Channeling our inner five-year old is a reliable indicator of a growth mindset and a characteristic of storied historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci.
But to use curiosity effectively, figuring it out for you and how you use it is step one for it to be more than a poster on the wall.
Start with this question: What’s important about ‘curiosity’ (or whatever you’re looking at)?
Got an answer? Splendid. Now repeat the question. And again. And as many times as you need too.
Once you take a breath and slip under the surface, you’ll have more detail and clarity beneath the general idea. It will be deeply personal and uniquely you. A step on the path to being distinctive. And anyone in your organisation can tell you what’s important about that idea.
And a robust, resilient brand result won’t be far behind.
See you next week.