Written by Jens Hansen, CEO at Supertrends Institute
We often learn by finding answers to our questions. This is especially true when we seek to learn about how best to navigate and benefit from our Future. Questions, however, are not just questions – A certain category of questions is much more helpful than other categories in learning how to craft your most desired future.
We can label our questions as either technical or adaptive. Ronald Heifetz, Harvard University, has done extensive research of the nature, characteristics, and power of questions. According to Heifetz a technical question relates to situations where the problem definition, solution and implementation are clear.
Confronted with a technical question we can resort to expert knowledge and common thinking patterns to find answers. Typically, technical questions have only one correct answer based on known expertise and practices.
Adaptive questions are very different and can be extremely useful for your exploration of possible pathways on your journey towards your most desired future. What especially makes adaptive questions powerful is that they require a deeper questioning of our assumptions and values. Adaptive questions have no particular procedure to resolve, and no known outcomes. Solving or answering adaptive questions requires effort and to a high tolerance for uncertainty and include the presence of divergent voices.
Examples of adaptive questions are:
- Which three emerging technologies could our company benefit the most from using?
- Which present mindsets in our organization are most limiting for securing a best possible future for our company?
- How could we 10x our growth in our most important markets over the next five years?
- How do we become the employer of choice in our field or our region?
Finding the best possible answers to this category of questions requires that we engage a diverse group of people with many voices and perspectives. The aim is to openly seek answers through the group’s collective intelligence and strategic intuition.
The adaptive leader
The adaptive leader will learn the skill of asking clear, adaptive questions. These questions will enable a group, a team, an organization, or a community to explore new directions, possibilities and opportunities. Being an adaptive leader requires you to be open to experimentation, open to exploring the unknown, open to disruptive innovation to facilitate and enable powerful, impactful answers.
You will find that your experimentation and exploration efforts are iterative. The answers and solutions will only reveal themselves through the iterative process across the group of people working on coming up with answers. You will also find that as you let go of your urge to control or guide towards certain outcomes, new, better, and more future-fit answers will emerge from the group. Exploring these potential solutions will allow you to achieve new levels of trust and collaboration among the people who are part of the journey.
Formulating YOUR adaptive questions
A good starting point is to source a pool of impactful, adaptive questions from your immediate environment. Ask your team, your organization, your community:
- Which are the strategic questions we should be asking ourselves to best adapt to a most desired future for our organization or community in a 3–5 years?
See what comes up and start to categorize and prioritize the incoming questions from there. You may benefit from making your own list of adaptive questions – The best results normally come when you refrain from disclosing your list before everyone has contributed.
Now, add the iterative process
Let’s assume that one of the questions that emerge from the above process is:
Q: How can we best benefit from the use of AI in relation to our products and services?
A: Our products could become self-adjusting in relation how our customers use them
Q: How could our customers benefit from our products being self-adjusting?
A: Our customers would eliminate the service down-time for our products
Q: How could we benefit from our customers eliminating the service down-time for our products?
A: We could increase both the attractiveness and the pricing of our products compared to our competitors
Q: Are there other ways in which our customers may benefit from our products being self-adjusting?
… and so, the iterations continue, providing exploration, new ideas, new possibilities … without judgement, just learning from inspiration and from wherever the iterations take the conversation.
Which adaptive question are most important for YOU to explore?
Take a moment and formulate for yourself the questions in relation to your most desired future:
Supertrends Institute Live Session Conversations
For our Live Sessions at Supertrends Institute we are following the principles and guidelines presented in this blog post wherever it is appropriate. It is a part of our signature as facilitators to create the best possible conditions for our Future leaning conversations. As a member of our Institute, you can benefit directly in terms of your personal and professional journeys into your Future.
This blog post has in part been inspired by the book Strategic Doing, by Morrison, Hutcheson, Nielsen, Fadden, and Franklin.