I recently appeared on the BitWise Technologist podcast talking about a first step you can take toward improving the digital quality of life for your team.

 It’s easier to see both sides of a question than the answer. – Arnold Glasow

When you want to solve a problem, asking the right questions is key. 

If you don’t ask the right question you often corner and limit your answers. This question kills the young, energetic imagination—the playful puppy—in all of us and focuses only on the technical nature of a given problem. When we start here we communicate that the non-technical aspects like usability, priority, interpretation, and understanding are less important and subordinate to the technical.

This couldn’t be further from the truth as the technical should be the final step in the process.

Go Beyond Technical

Asking “what are the requirements?” leaves so much out.

Here are better questions to ask:

  1. Who will be using the new feature or data?
  2. Where and how will they be using it? (i.e., desktop, mobile, voice IVR, chatbot, etc.)
  3. How does it rank in importance in their view?
  4. Are there others that use it differently?
  5. How critical is this information for a customer or partner who calls?
  6. How will this information be kept accurate and up to date?
  7. What is compromised by the customer by not having this feature or data available?
  8. What workarounds would a user have to employ to leverage this feature or data on their own?

Beyond getting to a better feature to deliver, the questions imply community focus and priority to your team members.

Quick Example

Let’s make this easier to understand: Imagine a young man rushes into a conference room 15 minutes late where a meeting has already started. He is clearly distressed and sweating.

What is the first question or comment you put forward? Is it something rude and condescending, dry and sarcastic, or empathetic and welcoming?

This will tell everyone else in the conference room what you care about most.

You’ll find this same situation every time you ask your team for a progress report. You could ask them what’s the problem or what isn’t working for them and how you can help fix it. The first is direct and to the point, which can shut people down. The second is more engaging and emphatic, and likely to get a better response from your team.

Let’s encourage the puppy in all of us and not kill them off in others.