The Art of Question Thinking
I wanna move to this new idea and the idea is around encouraging question thinking. Okay, I wanna define this for you and I'll do it in this way. For eons we humans and homo sapiens asked the question persistently, how do we find the water? How do we get to the water? Where is the water? Then we became nomadic. There's camels and they're wondering out there, where is the water? What is the quality of the water? How do we get there? Where's the new water? Where's the fresh water? Et cetera. And then at some point, over some time in history, we changed the question, and we changed the question to how do we get water to us? How do we get water to us? Now that's a pretty simple change of question but it's a paradigm shift. It's a complete paradigm shift. It opens up plumbing and aqueducts and canals and cities and metropolises, just that shift, how do we bring water to us? I'll give you another example. We'll make it business, right? Application oriented, right? this is the goal, how can w...
e apply these ideas in your work? There's an airport in Texas and one of the biggest complaints they get from their passengers who go through the airport, they land, they get off the plane, and they walk, and they go to the baggage claim, and they gotta wait. Gotta wait, just keep waiting. Waiting for their bags to arrive. And the wait time was about 14 to 16 minutes and it was the number one complaint. It wasn't the environment, it wasn't the heat, it wasn't the gates, it was I gotta wait for my bags. So they worked really hard on this problem and they assigned more baggage handlers and they expedited it and they had more coding, kinds of, they really put a lot of resources and energy into this project and they got it, they got it down to eight to nine minutes. They almost cut it in half. they were psyched, they are absolutely ebullient about this great innovation they've done. And then they surveyed their customers, again, they said what's the biggest problem in the airport? What's your biggest complaint? What did they say?
Waiting for the baggage?
Now, I gotta wait for the bags! So they got it from 15 to 16 minutes down to eight or nine minutes, that's fabulous, maybe. I mean, if they spent even more money and more people, maybe they can get it down to four minutes or something. So then they asked a new question, what's the problem? What's the problem they're trying to solve? The problem they're trying to solve is people, when they arrive at the baggage claim, they have to wait for their bags. What if we slow down the people? So they did. They slowed down the people. And they made the people walk a circuitous route to get to the baggage claim and when they got there, their bags were there and then they said, do you have any complaints about the service here at the airport? No, I went to the baggage claim and there's my bags, all by shifting the question and of course, the solution to slowing down the passengers was inexpensive, it was easy, and it was easy to implement and didn't take anymore people or money. So my provocation for you in driving innovation in your workplace is just to remind yourself of a series of questions which is what are you really trying to solve? What assumptions are you making? If it were possible, what would it look like? And of course, who else has solved a similar problem? Now this one, if it were possible, what would it look like? This one's important because anytime in organizations and meetings, when you say, we could do this, and then somebody says, we don't have the money, we don't have the resources, we don't have the people, we don't have the time, they name the constraints and you say, no, no, no, if it was, if, and then you conceptualize the possibility and work backwards. It's almost like overshooting the goal and working backward from it. This last one, about solving a similar problem is exactly what Cathy and I were talking about earlier about borrowing brilliance. And so remember this that many times if you're trying to solve an engineering problem or a design problem or a sales problem, if you add another sales person or another engineer, you're not as likely get closer to a solution than if you hire somebody completely outside of your domain who can find that and borrow that brilliance as Cathy was doing from her previous work.