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6.2 Open It Up – Explanation

Let’s get started with the fifth norm — Open It Up. 

We will take a totally different look at questioning and how it relates to innovation and collaboration.

It’s all over the Triangle of Challenge. You have to have the skill of good questioning to get innovative ideas going. When people ask why do we do it that way, or when people work together (collaborating), it gives people a way to approach it another way.

It requires curiosity.

Leaders told us that fewer than 20% of their people have the skills to question and ask why. When people are disengaged, one of the things they don’t do is ask questions. The need to ask
questions and have that skill applies throughout the business imperative of Constructive Challenge.

Now let’s take a look the 4 different types of the Tip of the Iceberg questions that can be used to Open It Up. 

Types of Questions



Hypothetical Questions ask about the “what if”. For example: “What if the rollout plan was perfect – how would it look for you?” or “Describe your perfect vacation — it gives direction but keeps it wide open”




Comparative Questions look at what’s different, or what’s changed. One example of Comparative questions is: “What is it about this vacation compared to that makes it stand out?”



Prioritizing Questions put the other person in a position to better decide what’s most important. One example would be, “what is your favorite thing about your vacation?”. If we were to ask a prioritizing question of the U.S. President, it would be: What is the most important thing on your mind as you get ready for your State of the Union address tonight? The higher the quality of the question – the higher the quality of the answer. It’s efficient and doesn’t take much time. Up to 75% of a negotiation process should be spent in research and preparation prior to beginning a negotiation.


Emotive Emotive questions dig deep to evoke an emotional response. Oprah Winfrey is famous for making people cry during her interview shows. She asks questions that are emotive such as, “What brings a smile to your face when you think of your favorite memory?”.

So, now you have categories of questions to get people to think. When people start to think, they come up with ideas. This is a critical skill for effective challenges.

How does this type of questioning compare to what you are doing day-to-day?

Below is a list of innovations that have had a huge impact on our lives because people asked the right questions.

 An assistant football coach at the University of Florida grew very concerned when he noticed that his players were dropping up to 18 pounds in a game and weren’t taking any bathroom breaks. He wondered, “Why are my players losing so much weight during games?” He went to a doctor to seek a solution. He asked, “How can we keep we keep my players hydrated and restore electrolytes during the game?”

Do you know what got invented because of that question — why are my players losing so much weight what can I do about it?


Here is another example:
A young entrepreneur moved to California and thought: How do I afford high rents in this area? How can I generate extra income and take advantage of space that isn’t used most of the day effectively?

What was invented in 2007 that revolutionized the overnight lodging industry?


Innovation doesn’t just happen. It comes from stepping back, taking a look, and asking questions. Thomas Edison, the great inventor, is famous for two quotes among many others. He said about inventing the electric light bulb, “I have not failed – I have just found 10,000 things that don’t work. And, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”

The reason questioning is key is that clients want to be innovative with their thinking. The tool is there, people know how to ask questions — but the key to innovation is using the questioning skills at a much deeper level, refusing to focus only on the tip of the iceberg, and instead of going beneath the surface where so much not seen at first glance exists.

Innovation doesn’t come from a light bulb moment; it comes from thoughtful processes. What gets in the way of asking questions? People are afraid. Now that we know how, is there a possibility we still won’t ask them? The fear is huge.

What are the top fears of asking questions?

• Look Foolish
• Should Know the Answer
• Challenge Authority
• Takes Too Much Time (takes time to plan)
• Tension
• Stress

We know that it takes courage to leap into the Arena. Questioning takes courage. In your upcoming workshop we’ll take that leap together using real life scenarios which will tie together the Norms and Skills of Constructive Challenge.

Remember, innovation is about new ideas. In our workshop we’ll look for you to begin to discover new ideas through this questioning process. The goal will NOT be to come up with a solution; it will be to practice the skills necessary to allow innovation to take place.