“A paradigm shift occurs when a question is asked inside the current paradigm that can only be answered from outside it." —Marilee Goldberg, from The Art of the Question
Data-driven organizations are expanding their competitive edge with better and faster answers. But those leading in digital transformation are going a step further by asking bigger, better, bolder questions.
In The Role of Data in Digital Transformation, Constellation Research Founder and Disrupting Digital Business author Ray Wang says the key to accelerated growth and transformation isn’t just asking questions of your data. It’s asking the hard ones.
“A data-driven culture starts with something simple, by having people learn to ask questions that might not have answers to them,” says Wang. “A lot of times, we only ask questions because we know that data is on the other side. So, we only ask very safe questions.
“What we want to do is break employees out of that habit and get them started on asking questions where they might not know the answer. These tend to be your more transformative questions.”
According to Wang, an example of such a question could be: “What would produce better lift—hiring five new full-time employees in marketing or adding $1 million to the overall budget?” Wang says people don’t normally ask these types of questions because they don’t know the answer. “What you’ve got to do is encourage everyone to ask these tough questions within your organization, then figure out how to find the data that gives the answer. And that data might not be within your four walls.”
“The best organizations are the ones that empower their employees with the freedom to ask better questions.” —Ray Wang
When Wang says everyone should be encouraged to ask tough questions within the organization, he means everyone. In line with design thinking exercises, left and right-brain team members should all be involved in the brainstorming.
“When we’re trying to innovate, we need people who can think outside of the box in a diversity of disciplines,” notes Wang. “If you bring together a scientist, an engineer, an architect, an accountant, and a designer in the same room, they all come with different angles and they bring years of expertise in how to solve a problem differently. That intersection of ideas and experience sparks transformative innovation.”
“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” —W. Edwards Deming
Digital transformation doesn’t stem from questions like “how will we increase sales of our current product by more than 5% next quarter?” It comes from out-imagining the competition and then leveraging data to deliver new business models and transformative customer experiences (think Netflix and Stitch Fix).
Next time your department or organization schedules a meeting to review its data, schedule another to brainstorm big, bold questions of the business. Encourage “what if,” “what might be,” and “what would produce” questions. The right question, plus the right answer, might just result in accelerated growth—and a new digital business model.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.” —Albert Einstein
Want to learn more about how data and analytics can transform the customer experience and accelerate growth and new business model creation? Get MicroStrategy’s 18-page Q&A eBook featuring key insights and advice from analyst, Global 2000 adviser, and Disrupting Digital Business author Ray Wang. Download The Role of Data in Digital Transformation today.