The dangerous art of the right question

The dangerous art of the right question

Venkatesh Rao on the dangerous art of the right question. Four questions that are, in fact, terrible from the world of business:

1. Who is our customer?
2. What is our market?
3. What is our goal?
4. What problem does our product solve for the customer?

They’re terrible, he says, because they’re devoid of information. Instead:

Real questions, useful questions, questions with promising attacks, are always motivated by the specific situation at hand. They are often about situational anomalies and unusual patterns in data that you cannot explain based on your current mental model of the situation… Real questions frame things in a way that creates a restless tension, by highlighting  the potentially important stuff that you don’t know. You cannot frame a painting without knowing its dimensions. You cannot frame a problem without knowing something about it. Frames must contain situational information.

Here’s why things work this way:

There are two types of questions. Formulaic questions and insight questions. …. Formulaic questions can be asked without knowing much. If they can be answered at all, they can be answered via a formulaic process. …. Insight questions can only be asked after you develop situation awareness. They are necessarily local and unique to the situation.

So how do you ask these questions? Here are three ways:

1. The Poirot Method
2. The Jack Welch Method
3. The 42 Method

And what are those you ask? For those answers, you should head over to read the piece in its entirety.