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Hal Gregersen with Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life
April 18, 2019
Hal Gregersen is executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and a senior lecturer in leadership and innovation at MIT Sloan School of Management. A Thinkers50 globally ranked management thinker, he has authored or coauthored ten books, translated into fifteen languages. The crux of Gregersen’s work, spelled out in his latest book Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life (Harper Collins, November 2018), is while most people are pre-programmed to look for answers, the real catalyst for innovative change is questioning (see “Bursting the CEO Bubble” and “Better Brainstorming” in the Harvard Business Review for key insights into the book). Gregersen is also the founder of the 4-24 Project, an initiative dedicated to rekindling the provocative power of asking the right questions in adults so they can pass this crucial creativity skill onto the next generation. Putting his insight into practice, he is co-creator (with Sam Abell) of Leadership and the Lens: Reframing the Question to Unlock Insight and Impact, an executive education experience through MIT Sloan Executive Education in association with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
About Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life
What if you could unlock a better answer to your most vexing problem—in your workplace, community, or home life—just by changing the question?
Talk to creative problem-solvers and they will often tell you, the key to their success is asking a different question.
Take Debbie Sterling, the social entrepreneur who created GoldieBlox. The idea came when a friend complained about too few women in engineering and Sterling wondered aloud: “why are all the great building toys made for boys?” Or consider Nobel laureate Richard Thaler, who asked: “would it change economic theory if we stopped pretending people were rational?” Or listen to Jeff Bezos whose relentless approach to problem solving has fueled Amazon’s exponential growth: “Getting the right question is key to getting the right answer.”
Great questions like these have a catalytic quality—that is, they dissolve barriers to creative thinking and channel the pursuit of solutions into new, accelerated pathways. Often, the moment they are voiced, they have the paradoxical effect of being utterly surprising yet instantly obvious.
For innovation and leadership guru Hal Gregersen, the power of questions has always been clear—but it took some years for the follow-on question to hit him: If so much depends on fresh questions, shouldn’t we know more about how to arrive at them? That sent him on a research quest ultimately including over two hundred interviews with creative thinkers. Questions Are the Answer delivers the insights Gregersen gained about the conditions that give rise to catalytic questions—and breakthrough insights—and how anyone can create them.