Ignoring. Answering. Researching.

2015-05-15

  • Hershey Co. recently learned that citizens of Utah eat more than twice the national average of candy, and that Minnesotans buy six-packs of Hershey bars at a higher rate than anywhere else in the nation. (It’s the s’mores!)
  • According to HubSpot, Internet posts that are longer than 1,500 words receive much higher rates of tweets and Facebook likes. (Frankly, I don’t care. I don’t like very long posts.) Also, 46% of people read blogs more than once per day.
  • Socrato! found that 96% of students with Internet access use social networking and that 59% of that group use social networking to talk about education and schoolwork.

Curiosity. Questions. Research. Information. Answers (sometimes). It’s a process that people are uniquely capable of (thank you Lord!) and a discipline we all need to engage in.

I’ve been in a number of meetings recently to explore organizational strategy, operational processes, financial results, and other topics. In each case information in the form of statistics has been presented, stats not unlike the ones mentioned above. Those stats are then given meaning in our discussion and then we interpreted that meaning in ways that either helped us address our question and move forward, or we discovered more questions.

It’s clear that statistics can be useful in our various lines of work—sales, production, manufacturing, education, finance, ministry, … and so on. I’m more interested, though, in the processes that lead up to developing those stats. What simple decisions were made that led to the answers we give meaning to?

It starts with curiosity, an attitude of the mind that seeks to fill a gap of understanding. That curiosity leads to questions. What to do next is the critical juncture.

There are many things we don’t understand, resulting in many more questions. These questions lead always and only to three possible actions:

  1. Ignore the questions. Sometimes this is an appropriate response. Some gaps of understanding don’t need to be filled. The leader’s responsibility here is discerning when this is true.
  2. Address the questions with what we already know. Sometimes that gap of understanding can be filled by extrapolating and synthesizing from other, related information. The leader’s responsibility here is to discern when this is adequate.
  3. Research it. If ignoring the questions and addressing them with answers to other questions is not sufficient, we must dig in and find new answers. Resources and planning must be considered according to the complexity of the questions. The leader’s responsibility here is to facilitate those processes.

Important point: Each of these approaches work together and become formally codified into organizational processes that help to create the culture and identity of your organization.

What we ignore is essentially a way of responding to whether a curiosity supports accomplishment of our organizational mission.

What we address with existing information is a byproduct of past research efforts and how well we have developed institutional knowledge.

What we choose to research is a direct response to the strategic plan for the organization.

Put together, all of these “curiosity actions” help shape organizational culture and identity.

Each approach (ignore, use existing information, or research) is simple. However, I challenge you, the leader, to be more intentional about your choices. When you are next faced with a set of questions, a problem to solve, carefully consider, “Should I ignore it, use what we already know, or get new answers?”

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

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