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Does Your Company Need a Chief Question Officer?

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Sometimes the biggest obstacles to business success are not as obvious as they seem. Marilee Adams, Ph.D, president of the Inquiry Institute, says that looking into root causes of problems should include figuring out whether people are asking enough of the right kinds of questions. If they are asking the wrong questions -- or missing vital ones -- problems, crises and failures almost inevitably follow.

Adams -- bestselling author and motivational speaker -- shows how success is possible just by changing the questions a person asks and the mindset from which they ask those questions.

This focus on questions and mindsets turns out to be a practical business strategy, leading to measurable, competitive advantages. Carmella Granado of Flextronics took the Inquiry Institute's Chief Question Officer Program and helped a business unit of 700 people go from last to first in their division within three months.

The Mindset Challenge: According to Dr. Adams, there are two mindsets for thinking: Judger and Learner, and every single one of us has both. These cognitive modalities affect attitudes and decision-making and are the precursors for success, both personally and professionally. One mindset holds a person back, while the other welcomes positivity and change.

The Learner mindset is associated with solution-focused thinking. In business situations, Learner mindset helps people be more collaborative and productive, ask many open-minded questions, question assumptions, gather better information and get to positive, lasting solutions.

The Judger mindset, on the other hand, can be restrictive, negative and blaming. When people are in Judger they ask few questions, probably because they're making a lot of assumptions or believe they're right and don't need any more information. This can be very costly. Nevertheless, Adams notes that, "We're all recovering Judgers."

The big point is that when a person develops the ability to recognize what mindset they're in at any moment, they also begin to develop the capacity to choose their mindset more effectively.

Examine your questions. By changing the questions a person is asking, he or she can open their mind to clearer thinking, quality decision making, and more positive attitudes, experiences and opportunities. Simply noticing whether you're asking yourself a Judger question like, "What's wrong with me or the other person?" versus a Learner one like, "What are the facts, and how can we make this work?" can make all the difference in business results for individuals and for teams.

Recognition brings clarity. "The ability to identify Judger mindset (non-judgmentally!) can turn around negative thinking patterns and allow us to switch to Learner mindset where we'll be calmer, more resourceful and more strategic," Adams advises.

Ask these six questions. Whether it's a personal situation or you're a CEO motivating your team, asking the right questions can redirect a person's Judger mindset back to Learner. Adams offers six simple, but effective, questions that any of us can ask to shape Learner thinking and help us get the results we want:

• What do I want -- for myself and others?
• Am I in Learner mindset or Judger mindset right now?
• Am I listening with Learner ears or Judger ears?
• What is the other person thinking, feeling and wanting?
• What assumptions am I making?
• How can I think about this differently?

"These questions set the framework and possibility for success and satisfaction in any situation, big or small. Great results really do begin with great questions," Adams concludes.