Retail Observer

May 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 41 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM MAY 2020 42 I n a recent strategy session with a leadership team, someone asked, "In a team of high achievers, how can we create opportunities for innovation?" It's a wonderful question. Life's high-achievers are in the habit of succeeding. When we're used to success, accepting the risks that come with innovation can be harder, because risks invite failure. People who study innovation call it "the paradox of risk-taking." Thinking about achievers and innovation, I remembered how strong the culture is at this particular business. And then the answer suddenly came: the way your team formulates questions will go a long way toward defining your culture and your outcomes. Let me explain. Curiosity is the prelude to discovery. Curiosity is also a powerful catalyst for organizational awareness. Asking the right questions starts a quest. The word quest reminds me of the Knights of the Round Table, whose lives were dedicated to venturing into the unknown. We grow in the direction of our questioning and curiosity. Questions create growth in people and organizations. It's why retreats, whiteboard sessions and brainstorming exercises are so powerful. Taking time to reflect, wonder, question and revitalize is one of the best investments you can make for your business. The questions you're asking define your culture. Disruptive questions can wake up a stuck or stagnant organization. People-centric questions help us refresh the humanity of our culture and our customer experiences. Deep, foundational questions can create positive directions for older firms and startups. What kinds of questions should you be asking? If you're asking finger- pointing questions like "Why is this customer unhappy and who's responsible?" you risk creating a fear-based organization that spends way too much time playing the blame game. But if you're regularly hearing questions like "In what ways are we delighting our customers?" or "Our NPS scores are down – do we have a blind spot in our value proposition, or maybe a customer service issue?" – it's a lot more likely that you have a healthy organization with a vibrant growth mindset. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Let's add a corollary: "The unexamined business is unlikely to thrive." An evolved business is ever-curious – constantly looking at how it can become better, where it can learn, and how it can better serve its people. Evolved businesses spend more time on deep questioning than just asking the quick-and-easy questions. The better the questions, the more likely they will yield growth-producing insights. Here are some tools and approaches that will help you ask better questions: • "Question storming" sessions. Instead of brainstorming a particular issue, ask the team to generate as many relevant questions as possible. The best questions invite open-ended responses – they often start with "What if…" or "How could we…" • Stay curious. Stay enrolled as a student of your business, your market, your products and your customers. Leaders should model humble questions and adopt a "beginners' mind" attitude whenever possible. This encourages a culture of curiosity. • Look outside-in. Lean into the wisdom of your customers. Ask them questions about what you're doing for them and how you might improve. You'll learn more about how you can serve them by asking open-ended questions about their desires and needs. • Catalyze your questions. Leverage and identify the "catalytic questions" that hold the greatest potential for disrupting the status quo. When leaders set the example by asking deep questions, they give the team members permission to do the same. This cultivates a culture of learning, curiosity and inquiry that helps the organization stay aligned, agile and on a constant growth track. Adopt this uncommon approach and your organization will be all the better for it. By understanding the kinds of questions your organization is asking, you can understand what makes your culture tick. Show me the types of questions your people are asking, and I'll show you your culture. Curiosity is life-affirming, because when we keep asking, we keep growing. Your approach to your curiosity can be life-defining. And it works for individuals and organizations alike. When you're being challenged, the path of your curiosity will show you the direction to the light at the end of the tunnel. For the past 25 years, Steve has served as an advisor and consultant on brand strategy, organizational life, and humanized marketing strategy. He has worked with companies such as Samsung, Habitat for Humanity, New Balance, Sony, LG, Amazon, NFL and MLB franchises and is a regular speaker for TEDx, Creative Mornings, CES, HOW Conference, Social Venture Network, American Marketing Association, and AIGA conferences. Steve has published two books, Brand Love and Loyalty and Humanizing the Customer Journey, as well as a forthcoming book, The Evolved Brand: How to Impact the World Through the Power of Your Brand. He has been featured in Business Week, Brand Week, Ad Age, Conscious Company Magazine, MarketingProfs, and HOW magazine. Steve leads his own brand and business strategic consultancy, Mth Degree. Contact:, 619-234-1211 or RO Steven Morris On Brand BETTER QUESTIONS, BETTER BRAND

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