Updated: Sep 18
“Curiosity killed the cat?”
No. I would argue…
Curiosity brings forth play.
Curiosity brings forth new knowledge that can be put into real action.
Curiosity brings forth innovation.
Being curious is what I encourage all my clients to do. It’s actually harder than we think; especially a lot of seasoned leaders and entrepreneurs have been hardened by failures and are set in their ways. My role as a growth and brand strategist is to engage leaders, and guide them to challenge themselves by using a framework which I call “Disruptive Questions.” These questions are derived from my two decades of experience in building and scaling companies; helping them develop a product from a mere concept or a technology; helping them bring that product to market and capture the market; helping them with their fundraising, and helping them set up a foundation ready for rapid acceleration. I have about 250+ questions; segmented into key categories:
product | ideas
talent | people
finance | moola
experience design | branding & marketing
They are all interconnected; one can’t work without the other, and all are equally important in growing and scaling companies. These questions will help streamline processes, and remove redundancies, as complexities typically inhibit growth. The goal is to produce a strong foundation for acceleration, while staying fluid enough to adapt to changing times. Each industry, has it own set of challenges and opportunities. Within each industry, there is an ecosystem; a set of key disruptors and trends from macro to micro: globalization, emerging technologies, supply chain, regulations, consumer shifts, geopolitical uncertainties, etc.
Ways to Engage:
I have compiled here some key disruptive questions that I hope will get you to strategize and think about your business holistically. But before we take this mini framework for a spin, I’d like to suggest the following brainstorming process:
Withhold from saying NO, or BUTs. Capture every idea, every thought from every participant/stakeholder(1). Allow for addition, instead of subtraction.
Allow for the process to be fluid - asking one question MAY lead to another question.
Capture every possible potential solution.
Allow room for fresh perspectives from people OUTSIDE of your team. (ie. Customers, partners)
Accommodate different styles of brainstorming that are suitable to your company culture.
Have an end goal in mind; measurable outcomes, actionable next steps, and start giving yourself and your team proper timeframes and key players to execute(2).
TOP INTERNAL QUESTIONS:
What is your purpose?
Purpose defines us. It gives us reasons to exist, to plough through, to rise when all else fails. Our purpose is what fuels us when we tap out our resources, when we face challenges. Asking this question will force you as a company to define your core values, your key messaging, your metrics for success, your North Star(3). To some it is impact: be it environmental, social, and/or economic. But whatever it may be; OWN your purpose. Be unapologetic about it. The more certain and defined you are with your purpose; the stronger your execution. It will help you set your key differentiators, uphold your brand promise, and help you develop your brand vision. It will say everything about what kind of thought leader you are. It will inspire, lead, guide and move others in the “right” direction.
Asking this question impacts: brand strategy – vision, voice and tone, value, stance and promise, product development; ux, ui, cx strategies; culture; talent strategies; strategic partnership.
Why are we doing this...now?
Timing is key(4). The right product, right people, right strategies at the right time CAN accelerate growth, especially if executed with high standards and quality. Some leaders use their “gut”/ intuition to determine whether the market is ready for their product. Some will rely heavily on business intelligence/ data. Either route you take, knowing your market, your competitors and trends, and understanding the geopolitical landscape will help you prepare for the uncertainties to come. This will further define your key differentiators and the value you bring to your customers.
Asking this question impacts product innovation, development, operations, resources—cash/budget, talent strategies, sales and marketing strategies.
What kind of culture do we build for our company?
It’s always about people. People, people, people. No matter how great of an idea you have, you need extraordinary talent to execute your vision. Your company culture will play a huge part in attracting these talents. Your company DNA will determine how ideas are exchanged, how talents are nurtured, how work/life integration is cultivated, and how your brand will be talked about and advocated. It starts from the inside out(5).
Asking this question impacts talent strategies and management, product innovation and development, leadership, strategic partnership, and brand strategy.
What are your resources? What are your performance metrics?
Idea + people + moola = MAGIC. Admit it. We need all three to build a great product and amazing brand, that can last through time—well at least until you raise the next round of funding, generate some revenue, gain some customers, whatever your success metrics are. And balancing people, finance, time, and speed to market is crucial in any business, startup or not. Look at it as a symbiotic ecosystem— you build a product, you have something of great value to offer your customer, you have a solid sales strategy that you’ve developed. In order for you to hit your metrics(6), you need to have the right people to run those initiatives and the right budget to execute within the given amount of time. Essentially, knowing what your resources are will help you define your key performance metrics, track them and hit them(7).
Asking this question impacts finance, sales and marketing strategies, talent management, and operations.
Forbes Agency Council. “10 Brainstorming Strategies That Work”, Forbes, April 10, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/04/10/10-brainstorming-strategies-that-work/#5c1fcce05da7)
Kevin P. Coyne and Shawn T. Coyne. “Seven steps to better brainstorming”, McKinsey, March 2011 (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/seven-steps-to-better-brainstorming)
Michael Chavez. “How Purpose And Mission Work Together”, Forbes, December 4, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelchavez/2018/12/04/how-purpose-and-mission-work-together/#54e597c03284)
Neal Cabage. “Why Timing Is Everything”, Inc., (https://www.inc.com/neal-cabage/why-timing-is-everything.html)
Jordana Valencia. “Scaling Culture in Fast-Growing Companies”, HBR, June 11, 2019 (https://hbr.org/2019/06/scaling-culture-in-fast-growing-companies)
Craig Bloem. “5 Performance Metrics Your Small Business Should Track”, Inc., (https://www.inc.com/craig-bloem/5-key-metrics-every-early-stage-business-must-track.html)
Michael J. Mauboussin. “The True Measures of Success”, HBR, October 2012 (https://hbr.org/2012/10/the-true-measures-of-success)