47 - Better decision-making by asking better questions



If you had to improve your decision-making and you had 24 hours to do it in, you could do a lot worse than learning to ask better questions. Why?

This is what Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke has to say: “Your skill in decision-making is directly proportional to your quality of information acquisition.”

Your decision quality cannot beat your information quality. Quality information is hard to get. You can’t always be running experiments. You gotta ask good questions. But not many recognize its worth. A high question-quotient is uncommon, if not rare.

Take these common scenarios.

**#1: You’re in a position to influence but you don’t have authority **

You’re in a meeting with heads of business units exploring a diversification strategy. Everyone is more experienced than you. It has taken weeks to set this one up, but now the discussion seems to be converging a little too quickly, or it isn’t going anywhere. You want to challenge the group’s assumptions. But you’re in a room of people who seem to know what they’re doing. So you clam up.

**#2: You’re in a position of authority but you don’t want to influence **

You’re the boss. You want _unfiltered _information to make up your mind on a critical business decision. You quickly and clearly set the context for the core group and ask them leading questions: Should we go ahead or not? Do you think you’ll be able to give this bandwidth? Soon enough, you have the answers and you go with them.

#3: You’re consulting a specialist industry expert about a new market space

You’re paying by the hour for this expert. You’re hoping you’ll come out with clear direction from the consultation. So you ask predictive questions that leave little room for ambiguity: Do you think we can win in this space? Is this a market trend that’s going to last? The hour’s done and you think you’ve got your money’s worth.

Whether you zipped up or leaned in or asked an expert to crystal-gaze, you probably could’ve gotten more out by asking better questions.

Here’s one thing you could’ve asked in each of the scenarios to unlock the right information:

#1 “What would have to be true for each option to be the right one?”

#2 “Imagine a future where we’ve made this decision and it has backfired. Write down what you think went wrong.”

#3 “What should I be looking for in a case like this?”

Before we get to what underpins good questions and how you can get better at it, here’s something for you: What’s your favorite question to ask to unlock insight?

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