Innovation strategy: How to Ask Effective Questions

As someone with an interest in innovation management , you know the importance of asking questions and listening to answers. Indeed, you probably make it a habit to do this as often as possible. However, when it comes to innovation, some kinds of questions are better than others. Let us look at various types of questions and why they are good – or why they stink.
Open questions are best

Open questions are those whose answers are not a simple yes or no. Rather they require the listener give a detailed response. Asking if a customer is happy with a product will elicit a yes or a no. Indeed, unless the customer is distinctly unhappy, she is likely to give a non-committal yes.

Asking the same customer “in what ways might we make this product even better?” on the other hand is likely to elicit a lot of useful information. And the more customers you ask this to, the more useful information you will get.
Focus on positive or constructive answers

Imagine you are a hotelier and want to get ideas from your clients about what they like and dislike about your hotel in order to improve your service.

You could ask, “What did you not like about your stay at our hotel?” in order to find points of dissatisfaction. A guest might reply: “The beds were terrible. I couldn’t sleep.” This identifies a problem, but not a path to solving it.

Alternatively, you could ask “How could we make your stay in our hotel even better?” The same guest might reply: “Provide firmer mattresses. I found it very hard to sleep in your soft mattresses.” As you can see, this not only indicates a problem, but clarifies it making it easier to solve. Moreover, it encourages the guest to think positively towards the hotel!

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