7 Quasi-Provocative Questions

These questions aren’t really provocative. They are actually obvious, even banal. But they can feel provocative at the right moment. And they help me and people I talk to think and act with more clarity.

What’s the next step?

A lot of fancy brainstorming and planning can be easily replaced by just figuring out the next step. It doesn’t even have to be the best next step or the most efficient next step. Just a next step you can take to move towards the goal. Figure it out, then do it. Then repeat.

What would you do if you could only do one thing?

What if you could only do one thing today / this week / this quarter / this year? What would it be? Work on that before you start thinking what if you could only do two things.

What if we’re never going to fix it?

That old piece of software. That hiring mistake from last year. That planning error that sent us in the wrong direction. That massive investment in the wrong project. That country that is ruled by an evil tyrant. That process that causes our atmosphere to get ever warmer. What if we’re never going to fix it? Can we start preparing for that right now?

How could we still do it even if we didn’t have budget / headcount / equipment / permission?

We’re probably not going to get everything we hoped for. So plan for doing without. And if we do get some of what we asked it will amplify our efforts.

How many different things will need to work out for this to succeed?

This thing and that thing? This thing and that thing and that other thing? This thing and that thing and that other thing and three additional unrelated things? 17 things? 279 things? The higher the number of things that need to work out the less likely we are to succeed, so let’s try something simpler.

How bad would it be if we did exactly the opposite?

Would it be a catastrophe? A disaster? If not, then how do we know that what we’re doing now is the right thing?

What would you change if you knew for certain that you’ll never achieve the end goal?

Would you stop? Then stop now. Would you prepare a plan B? Prepare it now. And sometimes the best answer is, we wouldn’t change anything - the way is just as important

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