Spark Innovation by Eliciting the "Hmmm..."

PHOTO BY ETHAN LOFTON

PHOTO BY ETHAN LOFTON

I have always loved the study of acting. The best advice I ever received from an acting teacher was to focus not on what I’m doing or saying, but on what I want from the other person in the scene. Do I want them to forgive me? To feel hopeful? To change their mind? With my focus on the other person, self-consciousness fades away, and you’re left with one committed, powerful actor. 

This notion of focusing on what you want the other person to experience came up for me again, years later, in one of my grad school classes. My professor told us, “Your job is not to come with all the answers. The sign of a great consultant is one who can make her client say, ‘Hmm… that’s a great question!’ If you can do that, you’ve helped your client think about their problem in a new way. That’s where the magic is.”

I was reminded of this idea again last week. It was my 30th birthday, and my wonderful colleagues put together a little notebook of advice - a Peer Insight institutional history of things they had learned over the many years. One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom was from our CEO, Tim Ogilvie:

“For any meeting or deliverable, what is the one slide, or one framework, or one question that changes the way they see this problem/opportunity (and wins the meeting)?”

Give it a try in your next meeting. Suggest an idea that would "never work." Challenge the status quo. Ask the obvious questions. Make someone say, “I never thought of it like that before!” 

One time out of ten, innovation is sparked by “Eureka!” Nine times out of ten it’s sparked by “Hmm… that’s a good question."

Tell me a time when you were inspired by a "Hmm..." 

Message me: @BreeAGroff