“Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in organizations: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members. And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.”
That’s how the article, “The Surprising Power of Questions,” in the most recent edition of the Harvard Business Review opens. I would wager to guess that this isn’t news to you. Undoubtedly, you’re not “surprised” that questions have “power.” Questions are your life. However, not everyone has made a career out of this conviction; many are just catching wind of this concept and think it is radical. Mark my words: this is a huge opportunity for you.
As the rest of the business world catches up, Insights leaders have an opportunity to step up to the plate. You wanted a seat at the table. Here’s your opening. Executives are listening.
If you want your stakeholders (be they marketers, senior executives, or brand managers) to really get the value of asking questions – the value that your team brings – let them experience it for themselves. Yes, I’m suggesting that you let the teenager drive the family car. No, I’m not crazy. Enable your stakeholders to talk directly with people that buy and use your products and encourage them to do it regularly. The first couple of conversations that they have will not be perfect. But they will improve with practice, just like the teenager’s driving. As an expert, you can add value by giving them best practices on how to best ask questions, just like someone did for you when you started. Everyone has to start somewhere.
HBR, back me up:
“For some people, questioning comes easily. Their natural inquisitiveness, emotional intelligence, and ability to read people put the ideal question on the tip of their tongue. But most of us don’t ask enough questions, nor do we pose our inquiries in an optimal way.
The good news is that by asking questions, we naturally improve our emotional intelligence, which in turn makes us better questioners—a virtuous cycle.”
When you democratize access to the voice of the consumer, break down the barriers that inhibit that from happening, and let your stakeholders engage directly in conversations with consumers, they will start to develop empathy for those consumers. Having those conversations, person-to-person, allows for them to resonate with and better understand the consumer’s perspective. Because they’ve formed a relationship with someone, now they have a stake in the game. They have someone that they need to advocate for. This is how you encourage consumer closeness within an organization. It is the first step in building a consumer-centric culture.
At Discuss.io, we enable thousands of these conversations all over the globe for some of the largest brands. One of our clients put it best. Stating simply, “when you hear them [your stakeholders] quoting the consumer, that’s how you know it’s working.”
These conversations can remain simple, casual. According to HBR, people are “more forthcoming when you ask questions in a casual way, rather than a buttoned-up, official tone.” …But you probably already knew that.
These conversations, which we call “Consumer Connections,” are not meant to replace research. It’s better to leave that that to the experts. No, they’re meant to get everyone else on board with the value that you already know: listening to consumers is important and powerful. These connections are meant to make your job easier. That way, next time you leverage insights to advocate for the consumer, they’ll already see the value in why that’s important.
When brands embrace conversation, they build a culture of asking questions and listening to consumers. Through the simple act of democratizing access to the consumer, we have seen countless brands shift their approach from product-first (I have a product and I need figure out how to to sell it) to consumer-first (I understand what the consumer needs and I have the opportunity to fill that need), resulting in products that consumers actually want. In turn, these brands become more innovative in their thinking, more consumer-centric in their culture, and more popular amongst consumers.
You already know the power of asking questions. Now it’s up to you to bring everyone else up to speed. They’ll thank you for it.