By Robin Higgons
I was working on a couple of client projects recently when I was reminded of a very relevant quotation by Voltaire – “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” We have just launched a new service called ‘Ask the Experts’, which provides a quick, authoritative answer to a single, key marketing question. The process had been well worked out and all seemed straightforward, till we came to working out the exact question with the client.
We quickly identified several potential questions, but which one should we use; which would provide greatest value; which would get to the heart of the matter? This brought to mind another quotation, this time by G. K. Chesterton – “It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” Taking this idea to heart, we set about understanding the client’s problem, what they wanted to achieve, and what they needed to do with the answer. This was an interesting journey of discovery for the client and us.
The situation highlighted a couple of salient lessons which we have known instinctively for a long-time, but which hadn’t been highlighted so clearly before:
- the relevance of the answer is determined by the quality of the question,
- it is often valuable to spend as much time defining the question as it is to finding the answer.
I found it interesting that issues of society and life explored by the literary giants of the past still have relevance in today’s rapidly changing business environment. But then clarity of thinking is essential, whatever the circumstances.