Explorer questions vs. manager questions


“Is this going to work?”

It’s one of the fundamental questions managers often ask. Managers ask questions about the potential for scalability, the possibilities of replication, and identifying efficiencies in budget and process. They strive to recognize what was done right and how to do it again. Managers tend to ask replication questions, “We did it once, now how do we do it again 10,000 times the same way?”

Managers also tend to ask CYA questions. Don’t get me wrong, asking the questions that cover one’s behind and protect one’s job are important pursuits.

They’re just not the Explorer’s questions Recommended Reading.

Explorers ask fundamentally different questions from managers. Explorers ask, “Why?” Explorers ask, “What are we looking for?” These questions are asked in order to gain insight. Why did we do that? How did this happen? When do we do that? What do you know? What do you understand? Explorers ask learning questions, not replicating questions.

Explorers base their questions on the presupposition that perhaps no one has been there before. It’s all about accessing knowledge, education, and what’s necessary to figure out what’s really going on. Explorers are thinking and wondering. Managers are thinking and replicating.

I was in dialog recently with a prospective Commissioner (what we call our clients). He was asking about how a particular outcome would work if he hired The Exploration Group for an Expedition. As I listened I realized he was not inquiring like an Explorer. He was asking manager questions. He was afraid to try a new idea because it might not work. His questions were about controlling, they weren’t questions of discovering potential; they were questions of how to replicate past successes. His thinking was going to kill his own good idea before it ever got started!

Likewise, we each have similar choices as we peer into our unknown futures. Is your glass half explored, or is your glass half managed? Which questions will you ask?

When an organization or its leader launches out with questions about control they’ll rarely get beyond management thinking to find what could be. The organization unwittingly risks everything, stuck in replication.

Is management your thing, anyway? That’s okay. You can still manage and replicate, but if you’re going to manage well, remember that good Exploration will always precede good management.

Just ask the right questions.


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