July 20, 2022

The power of ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’ in communications

Why do spinning classes have to be an all-round assault on the senses? What if a quieter option existed for those who wanted the benefits of exercise without clubbing at 7.30am? If I wanted to relive my glory days at The Leadmill in Sheffield I’d do so at an appropriate time of day with a drink in my hand.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how seemingly small questions are the first important step to change. They are the means by which we can turn curiosity into a clear focus and springboard for action.

Having a questioning mindset has never been more relevant in a business context and communications is no different.

  • With the constant change we face, we have had to redefine ideas about how we live, work and connect with people.  Being able to ask big actionable questions is the first step in moving beyond the old ways to embrace the new
  • It reflects the authenticity that is now required of leaders by employees and customers – you need to be humble in order to acknowledge you don’t know the answer, and confident enough to admit it in front of others
  • As increasingly projects become ‘sprints’ – being able to imagine the problems before they become crises and mitigate quickly is an advantage.  Music to my ears as a natural pessimist (realist!), I’m always asking – ‘what can go wrong here’?
  • With a wealth of data and information at our fingertips, and an increasing focus on being data driven in our decision making and actions, it is vital that we’ve framed the right question before we embark on research.  Data and insights are only as valuable as the question we’ve asked at the start of the process
  • Finally, questioning is egalitarian – anyone can ask a big, smart question and cultures that encourage this and collaborate to make things better will be more inclusive and creative.  Fear is the enemy of curiosity, so a focus on creating a culture of psychological safety is critical

Despite this, journalist and author Warren Berger has found few companies that actually encourage questioning in any substantive way.  It can feel like it takes up time when we are under pressure, get in the way of established processes and as anyone who has dealt with a four-year-old knows, is frankly exhausting.  However, in his book and on his website – A more beautiful question – Warren makes the argument for the power of asking ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’ to create solutions that meet today’s problems.

Asking those questions is the first step to creating communications programmes for the hybrid age; the first step to building a communications agency that is fit for purpose for today’s talent.

I don’t think I’ve started a revolution with my observation that some exhausted menopausal women don’t necessarily want to be in a hot space with strobe lighting & loud music. But I’ve shared my ‘why’ & ‘what if’ questions with the spinning club. If they run the odd class playing New Order at an acceptable background level, I’m in.


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