In lots of facets of my work, I often find myself having to convince people of the value of deep consultation.  The barriers are twofold here I think:

  1. It is harder and takes more time
  2. There is fear about what you might find out

There is a concept in Innovation Engineering that I find really useful here: genuine curiosity.  You have to be genuinely curious about what you are solving for.

For strategy, this often means supporting teams to make choices about their biggest problems and opportunities.  Do you really, truly, deeply understand what is getting in the way of your success? Is it an internal problem or external?  Is it widespread?

On the revenue side, are you brave enough to ask customers who have left you why they did?  What about those customers who might leave you? A major barrier here is the fear of a difficult conversation – “are you happy with our product or service?”, “what could we do to get more of your business?”, “what would be so much of a wow, you would be willing to pay more for it?”.  Asking these questions and being genuinely curious about the answers can redefine your focus. Without asking your customers directly, are you assuming you know? I heard someone once call this “assumicide” – yep, pretty much.

This may sound granular, but it is one (of many) critical piece of any strategy process.  Your stakeholders may have crucial insight into what you are doing right and wrong, and what opportunities lie ahead.

In the strategy work I do, I suggest a few tactics that help with this deep understanding:

  • Have genuinely curious conversations early on with internal AND external stakeholders. If you can, include some who do NOT think highly of you.
  • Invite diversity into the room for strategic discussions – and give permission for those with less power to be honest without repercussion. This amps up insights exponentially.
  • Test your assumptions and your draft strategies with those who will have to implement it. Strategy is a journey, not a destination. Don’t wait for the glossy print job to share with your team what you are thinking.  Be genuinely curious about their feedback.

Genuine curiosity builds a culture of learning and engagement that will empower your people.  It will also help with buy-in on your strategy – because your stakeholders will feel they helped drive it.