Asking the Right Question

Long time back I had heard a story:

God came on earth and he met a family of husband, wife and son and granted each of them a wish that he would fulfill. They were fighting amongst themselves and Husband asked – Make my wife a donkey. It happened. Looking at the mother the son was distressed and he said please convert her back to my mother, and it happened. The wife said – do not give peace to my husband, and it happened. So despite 3 boons, they remained exactly where they were.

God, moved to the next house and here there was a young couple living with man’s old and blind mother. God told the man I can grant you one wish, ask whatever you want. Man wanted lots of money, his wife wanted a son and his mother wanted her eyes back. So the man said ‘ I want my mother too see her grandson in a golden cradle’ . In one go he asked for everything he wanted.

Moral of the story is that you get what you ask for, and this is as much relevant in the innovation projects. Dr Vinay Dabholkar in his blog post gives 5 ways of framing an innovation challenge , that can help you frame an innovation challenge for your organization. Though he gives 5 ways, I am sure there are many other ways as well, but this makes a good beginning till you learn the art of framing good questions to ask. The examples that he gives are very relevant because your questions must also be relevant to the context. I like his example of how the same problem can have different questions for different people in the organization.

Boredon / Observation for Innovation

Scott Anthony in an article @Innosight talks about how Boredom can drive Innovation. Though cleverly titled, the article is meant to share his 15 minutes observation outside a medical shop or the pharmacy to use the right word. His observations are not unique, nothing that you would not know if you live in India, but from an outsider’s perspective, there are a couple of information points ( I would dare not call them insights) ¬†on how pharmacy retails work in India.
Now the author had these observations while he was getting bored on the road, but I would say you can be observant anytime and anywhere irrespective of your status of boredom. You can be observant while you are very interested in something or someone. Curiosity is more important to be a good observer than anything else. And yes, a neutral out of frame observations give you the best insights into people and situations. Look at the people around you who you would never call Innovative and you would find that they are not as curious and hence not observant.
As they say in creativity circles – Curiosity is the key to creativity and hence can we extend it to Innovation.