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Leading Ideas: Live the Questions

Don’t search for the answers that cannot be given to you now. Love the questions. Live the questions. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. — R.M. Rilke, Paraphrased from Letters to a Young Poet, 1903 For six years, a client of mine has been holding management meetings once a quarter to discuss stategy execution. About a year ago they asked me to help them change some things to make the meetings more productive.

Don’t search for the answers that cannot be given to you now. Love the questions. Live the questions. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
— R.M. Rilke, Paraphrased from Letters to a Young Poet, 1903

For six years, a client of mine has been holding management meetings once a quarter to discuss stategy execution. About a year ago they asked me to help them change some things to make the meetings more productive. One of the most powerful changes we made was putting questions at the heart of the meeting. We boiled the entire meeting down to the following four: (1)What’s working? (2)What’s not working? (3)What could we be doing better? (4)How could we be doing it better? “It was a small change,” my client reflected last week, “but it’s made a huge difference in how we think in the meetings. We’re much more creative and exploratory now.”

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Something to consider:

Questions, not answers, are the seeds of success. Someone focused on answers says, “This is the way.” Someone focused on questions asks, “Is there a better way?” Questions force you to explore – to stretch, to learn, to grow, and to be creative. Answers let your mind go to sleep. You get lazy when you think you’ve found the answer. You haven’t. And you never will because things always change. To stay vibrant and relevant, keep living the questions.

Something to try:

When it comes to your meetings:
1. Try putting questions at the core – like the example above.
2. Build in mechanisms that make questioning OK and expected.
3. Take the time to foster a useful dialogue around the bigger questions.
4. Be wary of people giving straight “reports” about anything – they tend to be loaded with answers that haven’t been questioned.
5. Make sure you end your meetings with clear actions and owners.
6. Come to the next meeting just as ready to live the questions again.

Question: How have you built questioning into your life/company?

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