Sometimes clients know the primary question, but are uncomfortable asking themselves that question. However, most of the time, clients are completely unaware of the question they really should be asking.
“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” ~ Jonas Salk
The primary question isn’t necessarily the root cause of all problems and issues in the universe, as we know it. Most of the time, the primary question lurks one level above the bottom-most, root cause level of questioning.
Many of these questions are left unaddressed and unanswered. However, many of these questions are incredibly innovative. Sadly, these questions remain untapped within this event horizon layer of problem definition. Unless, that is, the client is willing to cross-train their brain to think differently.
When clients contact me to work with them, I flush out the primary question before they even engage my services.
I want to know what clients anticipate accomplishing, as a result of working with me. So, I ask them. I usually get two types of responses.
The first response is a speech of deliverables, stated as a check-list within a timeline. These potential clients feel they already know what they want and how they would like it delivered. As a result, they are committed to their perception of the primary question. Consequently, the coaching, workshop, speech or consultancy becomes a task, no matter how complex.
As a result, no one, not even me, has any opportunity to make them budge from how they see things.
However, the second type of response is more provocative: to them and to me.
When I ask what they anticipate accomplishing as a result of working with me, there is dead silence. Their silence speaks volumes about the primary question to be asked.
Perhaps they’ve already gone down the “I know what the problem is and how to solve it myself” route and ended up derailed, at a dead-end. Alternatively, they’ve already hired a parade of consultants to solve their perceived version of the problem. However, at the end of each consultancy, they also are derailed by that same dead-end.
Either way, they understand they can no longer delude themselves. They understand they cannot move forward until and unless they understand what is holding them back.
That “something” which stalls, delays and derails is the primary question they continue to overlook.
More importantly, when these clients go silent rather than immediately answering my question, they signal their openness to discovering innovative possibilities. That interface is where the magic happens: for them, their teams and their organizations.
The primary question, the question behind the question, is a big idea. Most of the time, it is a simple question, as well, and an idea they dismiss and take for granted as being too simplistic.
Ultimately, discovering the primary question impacts workplace collaboration and convergence culture.
Simple, primary questions, once identified, have tremendous impact on increasing employee engagement and reducing employee churn. When companies enjoy workforce continuity, they create sandboxes for productivity, profitability and innovation. Otherwise, they spin their wheels in repetitive actions which do not move them forward to where they need to be going.
It all depends on whether, or not, clients are open to discovering their primary question, the one they really need to be asking. Are you receptive to achieving breakout mindset?
Babette Ten Haken is a STEM scientist, design thinker, strategist and catalyst. She writes, speaks and consults on collaborative value creation for customer success and customer retention. She works across leadership, human capital / HR, and the technology – business interface within complex Internet of Things ecosystems. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.
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