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鼓励员工提出尖锐问题 让公司续写传奇

2015-08-05    来源:fortune    【      美国外教 在线口语培训



At age four, we’re fueled with curiosity, asking thousands of questions to better grasp what’s going on around us. Already we are aware, at a very fundamental level, that questioning helps us feel our way around a situation and develop entirely new ways of engaging with the world.

It isn’t long, however, before we enter an educational system that rewards answers more than questions. Consider that the average child between six- to 18-years old asks only one question per one-hour class per month. Contrast that with the average teacher, who peppers kids with 300 to 600 questions a day and waits an average of one second for each reply, and you have a recipe for what I call the “Global Questioning Crisis.”

As adults, many leaders perpetuate this answer-centric culture, playing it safe as they get things done. But, based on my research and firsthand conversations with the most renowned leaders of our time, high-impact innovators know that they must question to disrupt, or risk being disrupted. As such, they sustain this critical skillset, not just by asking more questions, but by identifying the “hot” questions – ones that are provocative, emotional and downright uncomfortable – while also encouraging those around them to be passionate about the same. Finally, they actively pursue answers to these hot questions by leveraging several key discovery skills – observing, networking, experimenting, and associational thinking.

For these leaders, questioning is not a means to an end, but the creative intersection where a whole new solution – an innovative moment of truth – can catch fire.

Leading through questions

Every year, Cedar Citrus, a co-op citrus farm in South Africa owned by ALG Estates, received frequent visits from a troop of baboons even though the fruit was not yet ripened. Strangley, the baboons tended to frequent one tree more than any other. One year, instead of grumbling about the pestering baboons, Andries Fickster, a worker on the farm, asked, “Why do the baboons keep coming back to this one tree?” He knew even the hungriest baboons were picky eaters and would not eat sour fruit so he compared the fruit to the trees around it. Although the skin was green, the fruit inside was ripe and sweet. Fickster brought this knowledge to the owners, Alwyn and Gerrit van der Merwe and, instead of ripping out the tree to get rid of the raiding baboons, they asked, “How can we use this?”
在南非,ALG Estates旗下一家名为Cedar Citrus的合作型柑橘园,每年都会受到狒狒的骚扰,即便在果子尚未成熟的时候。奇怪的是,成群结队的狒狒们经常光顾其中一棵树。有一年,种植园工人安德烈斯·菲克斯特没有抱怨纠缠不休的狒狒,而是想到这样一个问题:“为什么狒狒们每年都来吃这棵树的果子?”他知道,即便最饥饿的狒狒也非常挑剔,不会吃酸果子,所以他对比了这棵树和周围树上的果子。结果他发现,尽管这棵树的柑橘皮还是绿色的,但里面的果肉已经成熟,味美甘甜。于是,菲克斯特将这个发现告诉了种植园主阿尔文和格利特·范德迈威。范德迈威兄弟并没有选择砍掉那棵树来摆脱狒狒,而是问:“我们如何利用这一发现?”

Ultimately, the van der Merwe brothers learned the particular tree the baboons were visiting had genetic mutations, causing the fruit to ripen two weeks earlier than all other trees. On top of that, the fruit was much sweeter than the other available fruit. Through this simple question and knowledge transfer between leaders and employees, Cedar Citrus was able to capitalize on the early-ripening trees and double its yearly production.
最后,范德迈威兄弟发现,狒狒们频繁光顾的那棵树发生了基因突变,使这棵树上的果子比其他果树早熟。除此之外,这棵树结的果子比其他果子更甜。通过这个简单的问题,以及领导者与员工之间的知识交流,Cedar Citrus柑橘园成功利用这些早熟的果树,使柑橘园的年产量翻了一番。

In a totally different industry, A.G. Lafley, now chairman and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble PG -0.35% , was similarly inspired by one question: “What delights our customers?” In search of an answer, he visited various countries, stores and homes to observe and listen to consumers so he could see firsthand what made them happy today and what might delight them tomorrow. This stockpile of consumer insights would play a critical role when he became P&G’s CEO, revitalizing the company under a “consumer is boss” mantra and introducing several innovative new brands like Swiffer and Febreze – while continuing to focus on consumer favorites like Tide.

Have you asked or been asked an uncomfortable question from a direct report or distant employee in the past week? If the answer is “no,” you may be missing critical information that could help put you one step ahead of the competition.

Consider the photography world, where questions have played a pivotal force for the past century. The question, “Why can’t I see the picture right away?” from his young daughter reportedly inspired Edwin Land to create the Polaroid camera, removing the “waiting game” from traditional film development. As digital photography disrupted the industry, Fujifilm, Nikon, Sony SNE -1.61% and others continuously asked themselves how they could continue to improve the landscape. They answered this question with constant innovations over the years, from face detection to in-camera red-eye fixes. But struggling Kodak, which ironically invented the digital category, asked too few questions to better achieve the digital and social media synergies behind consumer photography too late. Had Kodak’s leaders ratcheted up their discomfort level by asking and receiving more challenging questions from others, the company may well have sustained its legacy as a key industry player.

As the wild terrain we’re walking into grows more complex by the day, creating the right conditions for ourselves and others to ask the right questions is critical to unlocking new solutions, in work and in life. Failing to do so stunts our institutional, governmental, organizational and personal growth.

Hal Gregersen is executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and a senior lecturer in leadership and innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators and founder of The 4-24 Project.


1、questioning helps us feel our way around a situation and develop entirely new ways of engaging with the world 提问题可以帮助我们探索新知,培养一种了解世界的全新方式。

2、pepper vt. 加胡椒粉于;使布

3、perpetuate vt. 使不朽;保持

4、As such, they sustain this critical skillset, not just by asking more questions, but by identifying the “hot” questions 因此,他们一直保持着这种关键的技能,不仅会提出更多问题,而且能够发现“热点”问题

5、citrus adj. 柑橘属植物的

6、baboon n. [脊椎] 狒狒

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