May 3

Um, What Was the Question?

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If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams you may remember that the “ultimate answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything” is “42.” 

Of course, as it turns out, if you don’t know what the question is, the answer isn’t worth a damn.

We often find people and teams doing a lot of work generating solutions and answers without first getting clarity on the questions. Turns out, sometimes we even avoid naming the questions because they can feel uncomfortable and daunting. Questions that explore whether our organization brings value, or whether it should exist, can be scary ones to dive into.

Sometimes questions uncover paradoxes – referred to as “Wicked Questions” in the book The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless. “The purpose of Wicked Questions is not to find a single answer, but to create transparency about seemingly paradoxical realities that exist side-by-side.” 

These questions reveal the need for “both/and” strategies. Questions like:

 “How can we encourage innovation and also build in clearer standards for our work?” 

“How can I respond to this crisis while not losing a healthy work life balance?” 

“How can we increase revenue and at the same time build our healthy and equitable relationships?”

What this reveals is the need for simultaneous strategies to answer both sides of the paradox.

We think diving into these kinds of questions does a few important things:

    1. Clarifies where there is common agreement in your organization and allow you to move forward from there.

    2.  Creates an opportunity to normalize hard conversations, acknowledging that paradoxes are common.

    3. Uncovers opportunities for “both/and” solutions that allow for multiple outcomes.

We love helping groups uncover these questions and get crazy excited when we find them. As the Hitchhiker’s Guide famously says on the cover, “Don’t Panic” – we got you.


both/and, outcomes, paradox, questions, work-life balance

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