The art of questioning

Posted by: in Communication, Corporate and Strategy, Culture, executive insights, Inside WCG, Insights, Integrated Communications, Integrated Marketing, Organizational Communications, Public Relations Practice, Thinking Creatively, Thought Leadership, twist, w20 group, W2O Group on July 30, 2014


During my first few months at W2O Group, it became clear to me that our company mantra, ‘pragmatic disruption’, is not just a slogan included within PowerPoint decks, but it is fundamental in the way that the team operates on a day-to-day basis. There are no limits to the scope or expertise which can be called upon from our global colleagues. We question, probe and seek to partner with our clients – pushing the boundaries, providing insight and analytics to back up our recommendations. It is not just about fulfilling a brief, it is about challenging the latest or greatest and surpassing it! This is reinforced in our CEO,  Jim Weiss’s, recent interview with Gage Grammer.

The key question which I have asked myself since joining and working with the team here is; ‘is my work or my suggestion truly challenging the status quo?’ This question is simple enough in itself but, is not as easy as providing a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The answer could be either. To get the value from the question, it is necessary to enquire further. It is the questions that follow which have led to producing some of the best work which I have ever delivered across global branding, reputation management and social media projects. Answering ‘yes’, has positive associations, but leads to the additional question of; ‘is that necessary or what is needed?’ Well, in some circumstances, yes – it means that we provide our clients with eye-catching presentations and solutions, breathtaking creative executions and challenge ourselves to think outside the box. However, this may not always be appropriate. Sometimes, a simple solution is needed. The same questioning applies if you had answered ‘no’ – the art of questioning is about knowing what to do with the response. And, as communicators, this is what we pride ourselves on.

More than 20 years ago, Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, introduced the term “disruptive innovation” when looking at why established and successful companies were not challenging new rivals. The companies focused on improving products, customer service and profit margins – never questioning if this is what would make them more successful. Christensen questioned this approach which allowed him to identify what the management of these company’s approach should be – it was all about thinking about things in a different and new way. Questioning can ensure a company stays true to its culture, mission, customers and the initial intention. Appropriately answered questions can provide a sense of purpose and understanding that allows a company to pursue and succeed in highly competitive and saturated markets, allowing them to constantly evolve and refresh their identities.

We, at W2O Group, echo this in our practice, questioning allows us to build evidence through our analytics, using the results and market knowledge to develop smart deliverables, continuing to evaluate and question the ‘why’ to find the best solution. By this continuous evolution, we are able to support and help clients build and grow, examining business practices and preparing them to deliver upon previously unmet needs.

Five key questions can be used as starting point when developing any ideas, business cases or proposals are:

What am I trying to achieve?

This needs to be answered in the context of time. Having this mapped to a short, mid and long term goal will enable you to work to a timeline and set objectives.

What is the key differentiator?

Every company, small or large has competitors. You must understand both your and their strengths and weaknesses in order to plan, prepare and identify the opportunities to succeed.

Is this the best approach?

Whether this is an important strategic decision or how you are delivering a presentation, this is an important question to ask yourself. Do you need a PowerPoint or can you bring this to life in another way? Are you looking for bonfires – slow burning, or fireworks – in a blast of excitement to get your message out?

What’s my value proposition?

Make sure you identify your audience and what they stand to gain. This is often what allows you to justify the investment.

Is what I am saying clear?

Make sure what you are saying is understood is key – to anyone – it is aimed at them, not you! No jargon, make it simple and easy to follow – there should be a flow.

And most importantly: Why am I doing this?

This is the most important question of all. Without this question, you will not be able to understand what you are truly trying to deliver and the other questions may pull you off course. This question will give you an understanding of the motivators and driving forces for a project and help you answer other questions more appropriately.

By: Hollie Matthews

Director at W2O Group

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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