Change Your Questions, Change Your Results Fast

You get more of what you ask questions about. Ask about what’s not working or needs to be fixed and you learn about what’s broken. Ask about what’s best and how to create more of it, and you get more of it.

In 1985, David Cooperrider, a budding thought leader in the positive psychology and business growth movement took two groups of researchers to the famous Cleveland Clinic. At the time, the Clinic was experiencing the turmoil of major growth and transition.

Group One asked traditional questions to identify problems that needed fixing and assess causes.

The other, Group Two, asked questions to identify core values and shared aspirations, and learn about what was working when things were at their best.

After completing their research, the two groups reported their findings:

A. One described a clinic system in decay, rife with persistent problems and depressed leaders and staff.

B. The other, reported finding a clinic poised for amazing breakthroughs with energized executives and invested employees.

Can you guess which findings matched each of the two teams?

Yes, Group One matches up with A. And Group Two matches the findings in B. Group One was guided by a story about failures, risks, and threats; whereas, Group Two was inspired by a story about assets, strengths, and possibilities.

But…What About Solving Problems?

This was my bursting question when I first learned about this historic research. And, it is what every business owner or organizational leader wants to know when I teach them how to make the conversion so they can get to actionable solutions faster.

No, you can’t just sweep problems under the rug!…AND, practice and over three decades of research have shown that the “What’s best here and how can we create more of it?” approach (build on strengths, core values, and what is working when you’re at your best) is more effective in most situations than the “What’s not working here and how can we fix it so we have less of it?” approach.

Can This Approach Really Solve Urgent Business Problems?

  • Yes, The “What’s working?” approach is far more effective at solving problems for the long-term for several reasons:
  1. It activates the higher brain, which must be engaged for creative problem solving.
  2. Problem-fixing activates the lower brain, which increases the risk of blaming and analysis paralysis. It sucks out the energy that’s need to create and implement solutions.
  3. Not all problems need solving. In fact, some are just distractions from root causes.
  4. Focusing on solutions helps you prioritize and just zero in on solutions to problems that really matter.

Are There Any Problems That The “What’s Working?” Approach Won’t Work For?

YES! If you are about to hit the iceberg, then you’d better figure out where the life boats are and how to save as much of your business as you can.

This will however, help you avoid finding yourself in a field of icebergs.

In most cases, however, focusing on solutions actually solves problems faster and more effectively for the long-term than a problem-fixing approach. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • People are more likely to implement goals when they feel engaged and invested in them.
  • Most people feel more energized and ready for action when they shift from a deficit to a solutions mindset!!!
  • Focusing on what is working and making an effort to create more of it makes work and life more fun and possibility-focused!
  • Focusing on generative solutions is the antidote to feeling stuck, confused, distracted, and hopeless.
  • It activates openness, creativity, and the child-like energy.

The Science Behind Changing Your Questions

There is now over two decades of evidence from neuroscience-based approaches to business growth. The human brain’s plasticity gives it the ability to rewire itself and change its go-to responses when exposed to new learning and experiences.

Your choice of which kind of questions you ask not only impacts the current problems you are trying to solve, but the way you and others think in your business.

When you ask about “what’s working and how can we build more of it” you can expect to get different [better] results faster.

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