The urgent need to find solutions – even before we really understand the problem – is one of the most serious problems of our time. With major consequences. Because drawing conclusions means that you stop thinking and stop asking questions, to yourself and to others.
As marketeers, we’re usually called in to fix something. And usually, we’re expected to find solutions quick. I mean, QUICK. Or even double quick. Like, RIGHT NOW. And understandably so, because if something’s broken (or is about to break) you want to mend it before all hell breaks loose. With time putting the screws on us to find that fix, we stop asking questions and stop thinking. And start drawing immediate conclusions. We tend to forget we need to understand a problem before we know what it is that needs to be fixed.
What to do? It helps if we allow ourselves to stand back for a moment and ask a question instead of giving an answer or drawing a hasty conclusion. Let’s start by asking: Fix what?
Short-term fix versus finding the right answers
In a similar vein, in his book Return on Learning, Rob Adams points out how we are primarily focused on putting out small fires while forgetting to consider the long-term perspective. Rob describes how, in today’s Return-on-Investment based world, we continue to let ourselves be led by the idea that today’s gain is worth more than the wellbeing of future generations. Rob challenges us with questions such as: What are we doing to really put out the big fire that is wreaking havoc in our organization? And he asks us what questions are being asked to find out how we can control the fire, not fight it?
In fact, he believes that we have reached the point where we can no longer solve the problems we are facing with the old and existing way of thinking. Both governments and businesses are struggling with major future issues. Short-term thinking and acting makes that we avoid stepping into the unknown and taking risks, thereby cancelling any future perspective. To acquire new perspectives requires us to master the art of questioning. ‘It is not a question of finding the right answers, but of finding the right questions,’ according to Rob.
Let’s learn to ask
Roel Stavorinus, brand strategist and author, echoes Rob’s call to action in his book on strategic brand design. He argues that in a world focused on quick fixes, we’ve become afraid of asking questions. But we too have a role to play in bringing change. As marketeers, we should not focus on a brand only. But on the questions that need to be asked to make a brand meaningful.
He gives his top 5 questions we should ask: What is the problem anyway? How important is the brand? Are you willing to stick your neck out? And once you have everything in order, what’s next? And maybe the most important question of all: what are you worried about? A strong brand always starts with you!
And that brings me to us: Tech to Market. Our adage is ‘Now to Next’ which implies a connection between what we do today with tomorrow. So, we were extremely pleased to have Rob and Roel share their approach to finding the right questions for being able to make that connection, during our very first Now to Next evening. What made the evening even more valuable for all of us? The great example given by Chantal van den Berg who dared to question the questions she is asking in her change management work as Communication Director at our client Eindhoven University of Technology.
Let’s embrace what we don’t know yet. And discover that the journey of exploring, listening, discovering, and adjusting is fun, valuable and inspiring. Let’s learn to ask and give meaning to what we are fixing, for now and for next.
– Patricia Beks – Founder & Managing Director Tech to Market