The Real Secret to Coming Up With a Breakthrough Business Idea

By Guest Post

By Laura Nicole Brown

Most businesses waste time addressing problems that don’t matter because they are trying to find answers to the wrong questions. So, what should they do instead? Albert Einstein offers helpful guidance in this famous statement:

If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes to define the problem, and one minute finding solutions.”

In other words, you should spend time to properly understand the problem before jumping to a solution, because reaching the best solution lies in asking better questions.

Asking a good question will enable you to understand the core issues at stake so you can address the right problems. On the other hand, if you ask the wrong question you could spend a lot of time trying to find a solution to the wrong problem. According to Krista Brookman, vice president of the Inclusive Leadership Initiative at Catalyst, “Asking the same questions in the same way will get you the same answers.”

However, sometimes the best answers to questions lurk in unexpected places. Spaces that your standard set of questions would never take you.

A good question will reframe the issue and force you to look at it in a new way, says Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. It will enable you to identify better solutions which you couldn’t have found without that frame of reference.

Innovation expert Stephen Shapiro says you don’t need to think outside the box, rather you need to find a better box. If you change the question, you will find the same solution faster or different solutions you would not have considered.

So how can we ask better questions that will enable us to come up with great ideas and develop better products? Let’s explore different types of questions we can ask.

1. Ask inquisitive “why” questions

“Why” questions require an explanation. They make you question the way something is currently done and can open your mind to new areas of exploration. Good why questions can be a great source of innovation. Try asking: Why should people care about this? Why are we doing it this way?

You can also apply the “5 whys” technique. According to iSixSigma, “By continually asking the question ‘why,’ you can peel away the layers which can help you identify the root cause of a problem. Michael J. Marquardt, author of Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, says that while you don’t necessarily need to ask ‘why’ five times, you should ask ‘why’ at least three times in order for your answers to dig deep enough.

Example: An artist lost a potential sale because he was unable to accept a credit card. His friend, Jack Dorsey, asked the question, “Why can’t everyone accept credit cards?” This motivated him to develop Square, which empowers small businesses to accept …read more

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